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It's Black Country Day - and we're havin' a loff

By Alex Ross | What's On | Published:

Wave the red, white and black flag and chomp on those pork scratchins' with pride - it's Black Country Day and we're havin' a loff.

Thousands of people across Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall will be joining in celebrations today.

The day - the anniversary of the birth of the Newcomen Engine - is now marked every year with a list of fun-packed events.

Tonight, Ross Noble will headline a Black Country-themed comedy night at the Brierley Hill Civic Hall.

It will be followed by a series of family events over the weekend - in places including Bilston, Old Hill, Dudley, Wednesbury.

Aside from the pints of ale, people will no doubt be using the event as an excuse for the region's favourite snack - pork scratchings.

Black Country Snacks even have a black and white photograph of Dudley town centre on their packets to mark its pride in the region.

The firm has an office in Walsall and a cook house in Rugeley, employing around 40 staff.

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Its sales continue to rise, up 10 per cent from last year and now selling 250,000 packets every week, with custom as far away as Spain.

Director Philip Rolls said: "We contacted the Black Country Living Museum for a picture on the packets, and then went through hundreds of pictures before choosing this one.

"It shows a tramway and we believe is particularly iconic of the time, while also being in Dudley, at the heart of the Black Country."

He added: "We love Black Country day. It is great for the youngsters to find out more about our area and history.

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"It ain't bad for business either."

The Pie Factory gets ready for Black Country Day with assistant manager Jena Morris from Tipton and chef Alex Taylor from Gornal

Staff at Mad O’Rourke’s Pie Factory, in Tipton, were also celebrating a bostin’ Black Country Day today.

Celebrations at the pub include a Cow Pie eating challenge and a visit from the Mayor of Sandwell.

The pub is home to the famous Desperate Dan Cow Pie and the challenge of eating the entire pie is not for the faint-hearted.

Its famous menu also includes such delights as Black Pudding Potato Cake to Bread ‘N’ Butter Pud.

Chef Alex Taylor said: “Everyone in the Black Country knows about the Pie Factory, therefore it is important for us to be involved. I think it’s fantastic, to bring everybody together through this day. It’s brilliant.”

The pub will be flying its Black Country flag during celebrations.

The flag has also been hoisted aloft Dudley Zoo as attractions geared up for a busy weekend across the region.

The Black Country Flag flies proudly on top of Dudley Castle

Ahead of Black Country Day, a 'Black Country Hub' providing information on the festival was launched last week at Merry Hill Shopping Centre.

It has become a tourist centre packed full of merchandise and information for this year's Black Country Festival.

Festival committee chairman Steve Edwards said: "We have been absolutely blown away by the response that we have had.

"We have been packed down here at the hub since it opened.

"We wanted there to be a tourism information centre for the Black Country and this is it."

Landlady Lyndsey Morris outside the Old Bulls Head, in Lower Gornal, which has been decorated for Black Country Day

One of the events held this weekend will be the Bilston Town Black Country Day celebrations on Saturday.

Activities include a performance by the Coseley Comets band, dance shows and street entertainers.

Stuart Richmond, from Bilston and Willenhall Lions Club which is organising the event, said: "We are looking forward to a good day. There will be lots going on."

Traditional beer and ale has been central to the festival since it was started with Lye-based Sadlers brewery creating the official tipple called Proper Black Country.

Gornal-based Black Country Ales has also entered into the spirit of things by having its own beer festival over the weekend to mark the occasion.

The Black Country Arms, in Walsall, gets set for Black Country Day with landlady Kim Langford and barmaid Tracey Sykes

It will be held at its pubs including the LychGate Tavern, in Wolverhampton, the Black Country Arms in Walsall and The Old Bull's head, in Lower Gornal where beer has been brewed since 1834..

Director Angus McMeeking said: "The aim is to have a Beer Festival of Black Country Brewed Ales in all of our pubs in the Black Country – and also to do some missionary work and “export” some of the region’s fine beers to our houses further afield in Birmingham, Leicester, Worcester.

"As a company we always try to buy from Black Country companies and suppliers and this weekend gives us a golden opportunity to take beers from our friends at other local breweries and keep thousands of pounds circulating in the Black Country economy. Many experienced real ale fans refer to the Black Country as “Beer Heaven” because of the quality and range of different breweries in the region – and that’s worth shouting about."

Alex Ross

By Alex Ross
@alexross_star

Chief Reporter at the Express & Star. Everyone has a story - tell me yours.

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