Break out the faggots and paes – today is official Black Country Day with thousands of people celebrating in the sunshine as specially-designed flags fly high over local landmarks.
Dozens of events across the whole area pulled in huge crowds over the weekend as local celebrities helped mark the first real celebration of what makes our towns great.
Music producer Pete Waterman, Steve Bull, Lenny Henry and comedy legend Aynuk have all thrown their weight behind the big day - chosen to commemorate one of the region’s most historic achievements.
July 14 was chosen as it is the anniversary of the invention of the world’s first steam engine, the Newcomen Engine, which was first built in the Black Country in 1712.
Over the weekend, a brilliant Black Country Festival brought together thousands of people ahead of the big day.
Today, local dignitaries, music stars and celebrities will tour the region in an open top bus. adding a musical touch to proceedings.
Aynuk, whose real name is Alan Smith, today said: “I’m so glad that at last we’ve got an appointed Black Country Day.
“I’ve lived here 76 years, I love every inch of the Black Country and its traditions, I love the dialect, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world.
“We have the most friendly people - there’s an old saying, ‘a Black Countrymon will give you anything he ay got’.”
Organisers said they had been inundated with calls in recent days and weeks from people keen to thrown their own events.
Major attractions such as the Black Country Living Museum and the Red House Glass Cone played host to many of the main celebrations this weekend.
This included the return of A Black Country Night Out featuring stand up comics and live music in the cavenous surroundings of the Cone.
Stars turns like Aynuk were joined by Emma Rollason as Dolly Allen and comedy and stage act The Fizzogs.
Smoke bellowed from the replica Newcomen Engine which was fired up at the heritage museum in honour of the festival.
Schoolgirl Gracie Sheppard, aged 14, from Stourbridge, designed the Black Country Flag as part of a contest run by Black Country Living Museum.
And she proudly flew the flag outside the museum’s Newcomen Engine saying: “I’m very proud to have designed the flag especially with is being on show at lots of different places.”
The design was inspired by Elihu Burrit, the American Consul to Birmingham who described the region as ‘black by day and red by night’.
It features chains showing a typical product manufactured in the area while the white symbol in the middle represents Wordsley’s Red House Glass Cone and its glass making heritage.
Musician and singer Black Country Gaz devised the festival in November after finding last year’s inaugural Black Country Day passed with little ceremony.
But today the festival founder declared the weekend’s event’s as ‘bostin’ and the perfect way to herald the day itself.
“It is a festival by the people, for the people, and it is bostin’ to be celebrating Black Country Day with everyone coming together like this,” said the 55-year-old from Pensnett, Brierley Hill. “We could not have hoped for it to go better this weekend and we have to thank everyone who helped us and those who supported it.
“We will make sure this continues in the future,” he said.
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Dudley councillor Pete Lowe and Ian Marrey helped Mr Sawers get the festival off the ground and both attended many events over the weekend to show their support.
Councillor Lowe, who is Dudley Council’s deputy leader, said: “What the whole Black Country Festival event has demonstrated is the the way the communities have come together to take pride in the towns and areas in which they live in.
“We have only scraped the surface in terms of the economic benefits the festival could bring in the future.”
President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, Ninder Johal, today added: “The Black Country has so much to offer creative industries and tourism.
“Today means a lot to the local economy.”
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