Canal trust hoping weddings plan will help post-Covid fightback

A Black Country tourist attraction is hoping to bounce back from the pandemic by hosting more weddings.

The Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust has submitted an application to have its Birmingham New Road site approved for the "solemnisation of marriages and the formation of civil partnerships".

It has hosted a number of weddings in the past in its caverns, but bosses hope the new plans to open up the rest of the site will attract more lovebirds to tie the knot there.

Chief executive Traci Dix-Williams said: "This will give us more options to offer the brides and grooms. Previously you could only get married in the caverns, but this will open up the rest of our facilities.

"So you could get married in a slightly more conventional place and then have a cavern trip with all your guests, or you could get married in the caverns and then have your reception in another part of the site.

"It can be a really magical experience when all the guests get taken in on a boat and get to see the bride brought in. It's a lovely sight."

A wedding ceremony hosted by the Dudley Canal and Tunnel trust in 2007

Like many attractions the trust has faced a battle to survive during the pandemic, and was forced to cancel weddings planned there over the past year.

Due to Covid lockdown restrictions the trust opened for just 15 weeks in 2020.

It received a welcome cash boost in April of more than £150,000 from the Government's Cultural Recovery Fund, which Mrs Dix-Williams said had helped to protect jobs, pay bills and start developing a new business plan.

She said: "With the pandemic we need a really robust business plan to help us move forward. We're a charitable trust, but we still need to make money to invest back into the business.

"By looking into the use of our spaces like this it gives us the potential of a second income stream."

The attraction has now reopened for boat trips, having added a new Hurst Cavern display.

The first wedding took place there more than a quarter of a century ago, when Paul Smith and his wife got married. He has since become chairman of enterprise at the trust.

The application will be considered by Dudley Council.

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