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Black Country Museum sold out as attraction reopens after 136 days

Visitors flocked to the Black Country Living Museum as it opened for the first time in 136 days.

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Ben Waine, with family Harry, 13, Daniel, 11 and Alix from Buckinghamshire

The museum, based off Tipton Road in Dudley, was sold out as it reopened on Saturday for the first time since being forced to shut on March 18 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of extra measures have been put in place to keep guests and staff safe including moving shows outside, painting arrows on the floor, installing sanitiser stations and introducing queues for indoor attractions which have limited space.

Staff, some of whom were wearing visors and gloves as well as the usual costumes, were overjoyed to welcome people back through the doors and the feeling of excitement was shared by visitors.

Melody Franks at work in the sweet shop
The Black Country Living Museum was sold out on its first day back open

Dinner lady Katherine Horlock, from Burton-on-Trent, was visiting with her family.

She said: "This is the first time we have been out since lockdown other than for a couple of meals out.

"As soon as we walked in I felt safe and comfortable, it is so nice to get back, it is just lovely .

"The markings on the floor are really good and people are queuing and waiting, it is good to see it's working."

People queue for the fish and chip shop again

Emma Boex, 39, from Stourbridge, who brought her three children to the reopening, added: "It's been lovely, the volunteers are really good and the different shows have been great, particularly the mines.

"There's still so much to see and do, I would definitely recommend it to other families."

Bosses at the museum say they would have expected to have welcomed around 150,000 visitors through the gates during the period it has been closed and have faced losing more than £3 million of income as a result.

Phil and Katherine Horlock from Burton with daughter Caitlin, 10
Marco Longhi, MP for Dudley North, and wife Andrea enjoy the chips

The majority of staff were furloughed, expansion plans put on hold and workers were left counting down the days until the museum reopened several weeks later than most major attractions.

Last month it was announced that the museum had been given more than £1 million of funding from Arts Council England to help it survive the crisis.

Sheila Chamberlain Hyett, who has worked at the museum for six years and takes on a number of the character roles, was delighted to be back.

"I hated being at home, I like going out to work and I missed coming here very much.

Edd Miller selling newspapers
Dave Ball checks on the cars in the garage

"It is good that it has been sold out, it needs people to bring it to life and people seem to be quite accepting of the changes."

The underground mine experience is staying closed for the time being but bosses have opened as many cottages and shops as is safely possible, including the famous fish and chip shop.

And instead of being indoors, many costumed characters are on the streets of the site telling stories of the history of the Black Country.

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi is 'arrested' during his visit to the museum
Black Country Living Museum reopens to the public

Andrew Lovett, chief executive of the Black Country Living Museum, said he is hopeful for the future of the museum, however there is still some way to go to ensure its future following four months of closure.

Mr Lovett said: "After 136 days of enforced closure it's great to be welcoming the people back in, because without the people this museum is nothing.

"This is a historical setting and whilst we have had to put in place social distancing what we didn't want to do was spoil the historic setting and people's enjoyment of it and that has taken quite a lot of thought to get it right, it's quite different to doing it in a supermarket.

"It's great to be back but reopening is not recovery and we have got a long way to go before we are financially sustainable again, as 95 per cent of our income comes from visitors."

Marco Longhi and wife Andrea chat to Andrew Lovett, chief executive of the Black Country Living Museum

Among the many visitors for the first day back on Saturday was Marco Longhi, MP for Dudley North.

He said: "I’m so pleased to see the bostin’ Black Country Living Museum has now officially reopened.

"Learning about our local history and culture is incredibly important in making sure we are prepared for the future.

"The staff here have done really a fantastic job to make sure everything is safe for the public to visit again."

Visitors to the Black Country Living Museum must pre-book tickets in advance which can be done on the website.

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