Chantel McGregor at the Robin 2
After four years of touring and festival appearances, Chantel McGregor returns with a vengeance with an album of ten new songs that not only salutes contemporary rock, but shows her gradual transition from conventional Blues to a harder, bigger and bolder rock sound with progressive influences. Guitarist and singer-songwriter Chantel has released a highly anticipated album, Lose Control, on her independent boutique label Tis Rock Music. This is the follow up to her critically acclaimed debut solo album, Like No Other. ‘I’ve always been interested in the dark side of Southern Gothic literature, artwork and media,’ she says. ‘I wanted to create an album that reflected the imagery and themes of that genre. I drew inspiration from the TV shows True Detective and True Blood and studied the literary works of Tennessee Williams, Carson Mullers and Mark Twain.’ Lose Control sees Chantel channeling her guitar playing and song-writing into an exciting pantheon of rock crescendos and riffs, that will not only leave her devout blues rock fan base in awe, but will also lead them into a sonic journey that will take them into new musical territory, whilst sticking to her current obsession with all things Southern Gothic. Watch video Chantel McGregor will be performing her music on stage at the Robin 2 in Bilston on Thursday 7th June 2018. Support will be provided by the Zoe Green Band, delivering a powerful, sultry Blues Rock vocal and high octane performance accompanied by legendary and ridiculously talented guitarist Ali Clinton with Toby Wilson on drums, David Clarke on bass and Paul Brambani on Hammond. The whole band are a powerhouse, delivering an explosive set of originals and covers and an unmissable full-on show.
Gretchen Peters at Birmingham Symphony Hall
Acclaimed American singer / songwriter Gretchen Peters will be at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall for one of her many appearances on tour in the UK this summer. She was born in Bronxville, New York, in 1957 and in the late 1980s moved to Nashville, where she found work as a songwriter, composing hits for artists such as Etta James, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, George Strait, Anne Murray and Neil Diamond, and co-writing songs with Bryan Adams. She won the Country Music Association Song Of The Year award for ‘Independence Day’ and was inducted to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014. In addition, she has released seven previous studio albums of her own, including 2015’s Blackbirds, which went on to win the International Album of the Year at the Americana Music Association UK Awards and led to a sold-out UK tour. Her latest album, Dancing with the Beast, puts female characters at the fore, from teenage girls to old women. There’s a bittersweet beauty to the passing of time, and the changes it brings are just as often heartbreaking as they are heartwarming. With melody supporting that melancholy, the songs combine to lift the effort over the high artistic bar set by her previous work showing again that Gretchen Peters is one of her generation’s most compelling artists. Gretchen Peters writes wonderful lyrics filled with compassion, sadness, hard-earned wisdom and hope. She will be appearing at many venues in the UK this summer, starting on 19th May at Stamford’s Corn Exchange and including places such as Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham and Cardiff, as well as the Beverley, Wadebridge and Shrewsbury Folk Festivals. Her much anticipated show at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall will be on 25th May and tickets can be booked here.
Wolves in Wolves
Wolves in Wolverhampton was the largest public art exhibition and trail to have ever taken place in the City, with 30 locally made, designed and installed Wolves sculptures in place for more than 11 weeks at key sites around the City Centre. Three of the sculptures were outside the ring road - one in West Park, one inside Wolves Museum entrance, and one outside Marston’s Brewery Shop. You could follow the sculpture trail using maps. Alongside this, Wolverhampton Art Gallery hosted a mini-wolf exhibition where over 60+ miniature wolves painted by local schools, groups and artists were displayed. The Wolves in Wolves project was a result of an idea submitted by a City of Wolverhampton Council employee to encourage people to come to visit the City and improve its appeal. The sculptures were made from fibreglass by a company in Kidderminster and plaques for the City of Wolverhampton College were fixed onto their bases. Students produced the plinths as part of the College’s sponsorship for the project, giving an opportunity to put into practice the skills they will need when they embark on their careers as well as showcase what they can do to potential employers. When the exhibition ended in 2017, the majority of wolves sculptures were auctioned off in the Jack Hayward Suite at Molineux by BBC Antiques Roadshow expert Will Farmer, raising over £35,000 for The Outside Centre and the Mayor’s Charities. Top price of £3,200 was paid by an anonymous bidder for a piece by Claire Rollerson called Garden, which was located at the bus station throughout the trail period. ‘Wolves in Wolves gave the city a blast of colour and excitement,’ said Mayor Elias Mattu. You can find out more on the exhibition website, including details of the amazing artists involved.
Civic Halls refurbishment
Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall and Wulfrun Halls are starting a £14.4 million renovation project in September that could take up to 18 months to complete and will see an extension of the stage, two new balconies and an upgrade to the outside of the building. Partly funded by a Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Deal grant, refurbishment of the revered Grade II listed venue will increase Civic Hall capacity by 539 seats to a total of 2,554, with the standing capacity increasing to 3,549. The Wulfrun Hall will also have a new balcony and improved hospitality areas. The project is expected to attract an additional 330,000 visitors a year, and John Reynolds, the council’s cabinet member for city economy, said, ‘The Civic Halls have been around since the 1930s and are an important part of our visitor economy, providing jobs and generating millions of pounds every year by staging nationally acclaimed shows. The increased capacity will make it a more attractive place in the entertainment market, enabling it to attract significantly more popular and prestigious acts, while retaining the current characteristics that make it popular with performers, producers and audiences. The importance of its contribution to the visitor economy was recently highlighted by Wolverhampton making the top ten in a major survey of the best live music scenes in the UK.’ Both venues reopened in time for the Grand Slam of Darts and other events in November 2017. The Civic Hall will close for its final facelift for the first three months of 2018, opening just in time to celebrate its 80th birthday.
Wolverhampton on Film
The British Film Institute’s Britain on Film project has made thousands of films, including many depicting the Black Country, available free online. Over 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to the present day will be digitised to provide a fascinating social history of everyday life. The vintage videos were all held in a regional collection and are now available to a wider audience. Highlights include a film made in 1970 showing the changes in Wolverhampton as the city’s Georgian and Victorian shops made way for flats, two new shopping centres, tower block living and a ring-road that cut through large areas of the old town (watch now). Progress perhaps but a nightmare for the sentimentalist or Victorian enthusiast. Another film, shot by an unidentified film-maker, shows the celebration of King George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935. Events include a civic parade ascending the steps to St Peter’s Church (with crowds standing in front of the now long-gone Wholesale Market) and a costumed pageant in the football ground that attracted a large crowd, as well as buildings and streets decorated in honour of the royal event (watch now). There is also a 1904 film showing Wolves playing away at Preston North End.
New canal quarter and Molineux square plans
An ambitious 12-year regeneration plan for Wolverhampton have been announced by the city council. The City Centre Area Action Plan (CCAAP) envisages a bustling canal quarter, a city centre cinema, thousands of new homes (630 of them in the canalside development), new public squares and an increase in retail and leisure choice. The Canalside Quarter would stretch from Horseley Fields to Fiveways Island. A Molineux Quarter will be created near the Wolves ground to include a new public square for football fans and students to enjoy. A cinema would be built near Penn Road Island and Ring Road St Mark’s and a new supermarket at Stafford Street’s Peel Centre. Shops and leisure facilities will be created around the Springfield Brewery site, which is being taken over by the University of Wolverhampton next year. Around 2,000 homes will be built around the city centre and surrounding areas including All Saints, Blakenhall, Graiseley, Chapel Ash and West Park.
Campaign frees the Hepworth sculpture!
The Barbara Hepworth sculpture ‘Rock Form (Porthcurno)’, which has stood in the Mander Centre, Wolverhampton, for 46 years, and which was provided at cost price by the artist for the enjoyment of the people of the city, was recently removed and put at risk of being sold off privately, to be lost to the public forever. This wonderful, iconic sculpture is a local landmark, and by far the best single piece of artwork in Wolverhampton. It is one of only seven castings; the others are all in prestigious public collections around the world. How many other cities and how many other shopping centres have artwork of this importance on public display? It has stood in the Centre since 1968, but was secretly removed in May 2014, on the pretext of building work that would not begin till the following year. The owners, Delancey and RBS, refused to say where the sculpture or the time capsule in its plinth now were, and refused to give any reassurance that it will not be sold off. Plans for the redevelopment of the Mander Centre should be modified to include the Hepworth, and it must be returned to its place of pride as soon as practicable, and a firm guarantee given of this. In October 2014 it was announced by RBS that they will return Barbara Hepworth’s multi-million pound sculpture to the public, following a widely supported campaign. A petition by 38 Degrees received three thousand signatures and the return of the sculpture was supported by city councillors and MPs as well as luminaries such as sculptor Anthony Gormley. RBS said that the sculpture will return to the Mander Centre on loan from RBS, once refurbishment of the Mander Centre has been completed. The sculpture can currently be seen displayed at Wolverhampton Art Gallery while the redevelopment of the shopping centre is carried out. Antony Gormley said: ‘There is, in this monetarist time, an assumption that ‘common good’ can be trumped by the values of a liberalised economy; let us hope you can change that assumption here.’ The sculpture can currently be seen temporarily at Wolverhampton’s Central Library whilst refurbishment is taking place at its new home in Wolverhampton Art Gallery.