MP Tom Watson wants to make 'Black Country Day' an annual event that shares pride in industry, culture and heritage. How would you celebrate it?
From the Newcomen Engine to Led Zeppelin, from faggots and peas to the unmistakeable taste of orange, battered chips – the Black Country has plenty to shout loudly and proudly about.
But a single flag flying from a government office in London was the only mark of a day to celebrate all that is good about it.
Now an MP wants to make Black Country Day an annual event that shares pride in industry, culture and heritage.
- How would YOU like to celebrate Black Country Day? Have your say in the comment box below.
Tom Watson is canvassing opinions from politicians and residents across the four boroughs of the Black Country about what should be included if the day becomes a fixture in the calendar.
It comes after the Department of Communities and Local Government marked Black Country Day by raising a specially-designed banner on the anniversary of the invention of the Newcomen steam engine on July 14.
It depicts a chain link on a black, white and red background and was designed last year as part of a competition.
The winning entry was by Gracie Sheppard, who attended Redhill Primary School, in Stourbridge and recalls the famous description of the Black Country by Elihu Burrit that it was ‘black by day and red by night’ owing to the smoke and fires of industry.
But other than that no celebrations were held at all and even the Black Country Society, which supported the creation of the flag admits it passed its members by as did the Black Country Living Museum.
Mr Watson wants to emulate the annual Yorkshire Day held on August 1 when towns across the northern county come together to hold events.
The MP for West Bromwich East said: “Yorkshire Day has been celebrated since 1975 and I think we should replicate it in the Black Country.
“We should celebrate all the things that are good about the Black Country and bring the towns and city of the sub region together.
“I’d like people to tell me what they think about the idea.”
He added that politicians and civil servants in London often had little knowledge of the Black Country.
“When I was a minister I was amazed how few civil servants knew that if you wanted to go to West Bromwich you get a train to Sandwell and Dudley, rather than Birmingham,” he said.
“I think we need to celebrate what’s great about our area and it would help those people in London who seem to have no idea about us.”
Mick Pearson, who edits the Black Countryman magazine for the Black Country Society, said: “I knew about the flag being flown but I must admit the day got lost or forgotten.
“We’ve missed the boat for this year but I think it should be on the calendar and we should do something about it.”
Andrew Lovett, director and chief executive, Black Country Living Museum, said: “It was the day’s first outing this year, after last year’s 300th anniversary of the Newcomen Engine, and we’ll do more next year at the museum and hope that people living in the Black Country will find their own ways of celebrating it and what it means for them.”
Leader of Wolverhampton City Council Councillor Roger Lawrence said civic leaders were not invited to get in on the celebrations when the flag was hoisted above Elland House in London.
He said: “It was all a bit Secret Squirrel. The government did not make much of it and did not involve local authorities.
“If we’re going to have a celebration we should do it properly.”
Thomas Newcomen developed the Newcomen Engine in 1712 and it was the first machine to harness the power of steam to pump water out of mines.
l Anyone with ideas on how to develop a proper Black Country Day can email Mr Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact him on Twitter @tom_watson. He can also be reached by post at Tom Watson MP, Terry Duffy House, Thomas Street, West Bromwich, B70 6NT.
How would YOU like to celebrate Black Country Day? Have your say in the comment box below.