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Happy Black Country Day! Socially-distanced celebrations for our bostin' home

By Peter Madeley | Dudley | News | Published:

Black Country Day is today being celebrated at a distance after one of the most traumatic periods in our long and illustrious history.

Robin Shields and Martin Wilkins from Black Country Ales celebrate Black Country Day

Normal festival celebrations have been curtailed because of coronavirus – but that doesn’t mean the event has been forgotten.

A small celebration is being held in Halesowen this afternoon but otherwise residents across the Black Country have been urged to fly their flags from their homes to show their pride at who they are and where they are from.

The Black Country flag is being flown from landmark such as Dudley Zoo, Dudley Town Hall and Stourbridge Town Hall and a huge image of the Black Country flag will also be beamed onto the walls of Dudley Town Hall tonight.

Meanwhile a pair of performers will be keeping the party going despite the festival being cancelled this year.

Brian Dakin, aka Billy Spakemon, with his performing partner Tom Stanton from The Blue Granits, who are busking for Black Country Day

Brian Dakin, aka Billy Spakemon, and his performing partner Tom Stanton, from The Blue Granits, are hosting their own socially-distanced celebrations by busking on their front gardens joined by bass player Chris Homer.

They will perform outside Brian's home at 53 Midhill Drive in Rowley Regis today, and Tom's home at 40 Oak Road in Oldbury on Thursday, both from 7pm.

'True spirit shines through'

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Today West Midlands Mayor Andy Street paid tribute to the “true spirit” of the Black Country that has seen us through the worst of the health crisis.

And, as he warned of difficult economic times ahead, he spoke of how touched he has been by the countless examples of generosity and selflessness at a time of pain for so many.

More Black Country Day coverage:

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Mr Street, writing to Express & Star readers, said: “At every level, from the individual doorstep to whole community efforts, help has been at hand. You should all be immensely proud of your efforts.

The Black Country flag beamed on Dudley Town Hall

“It has also been amazing to how see the Black Country community has rallied together. The true spirit of our region has truly shone through.

"From Warley Baptist Church and the Kings Community Church in Brandhall coming together to deliver hot food to the vulnerable, to charity Just Straight Talk adapting its services online to keep people connected, the response has been phenomenal.

“There is no sugar-coating the fact that the West Midlands could be the region worst affected by the economic downturn. But we are doing all we can to mitigate this.”

Proud

Leaders across the Black Country today spoke of their determination to help the region through the crisis – and all spoke of the strength and spirit of those living here.

Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley said the events of recent months had shown the Black Country’s “great community spirit” at its finest.

“Black Country Day has always been about bringing people together,” he said. “It is a pity we can’t celebrate it in the usual way but hopefully it will be back next year stronger than ever.”

MPs from the region gathered in Westminster ahead of Black Country Day.

Ninder Johal, from the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said: “Our region has a reputation for its rich industrial heritage but there is so much more to it than that.

“We have green countryside, a flourishing visitor economy and a pioneering creative sector. Despite the uncertainty the future is still bright.”

Jane Stevenson, the MP for Wolverhampton North East, said: “This is a day to celebrate our proud industrial heritage and strong bonds of community. We face difficult times, but I'm hopeful for our growth and recovery as a region."

West Bromwich East MP Nicola Richards, said: "The coronavirus emergency has affected all of our lives and we still have some difficult days to come, but I have been genuinely inspired by the collective community spirit Black Country folk have shown so far.

"Black Country people are made of true grit and determination, and it’s this inspirational mentality that will see us through the difficult months to come.

"So this Black Country Day, let’s draw strength from the community spirit and kindness we have seen across our region over the last few months and look ahead with a real sense of optimism."

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird, said: “The Black Country works extremely hard to protect its identity. It has got a lot to offer and I for one and proud to be part of it.”

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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