PROSPER MAGAZINE: ISSUE 01 | BLACK COUNTRY LIVING MUSEUM
BLACK BY DAY - RED BY NIGHT
AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE FROM START TO FINISH, BLACK COUNTRY LIVING MUSEUM IS AN AWARD-WINNING OPEN-AIR MUSEUM THAT TELLS THE STORY OF THE FIRST INDUSTRIALISED LANDSCAPE IN BRITAIN.
Today, visitors can explore 26 acres of shops, houses and industrial areas where historic characters bring to life the stories of some of the most hard-working, ingenious and influential people you could ever hope to meet.
The Museum takes inspiration from Elihu Burritt’s famous description of the area, when, as the American Consul to Birmingham in 1868, said “the Black Country, black by day and red by night, cannot be matched for vast and varied production, by any other space of equal radius on the surface of the globe.”
It is this turning point in Britain’s national story that the Museum celebrates while drawing parallels with people’s lives today with a record-breaking 355,054 people visiting during its 40th anniversary
year in 2018.
As well as attracting record numbers of visitors during the daytime, the Museum’s special
evening events have become increasingly popular. This year’s 1940s Weekend saw 10,000 visitors
experience the Black Country of wartime Britain. This annual event has become a real fixture on the 1940s circuit with its jam-packed programme including performances by Britain’s Got Talent Finalists the D-Day Darlings, as well as military and civilian re-enactments.
Peaky Blinder’s Nights have also been a huge success; with the Museum increasing the number of events in its calendar to meet demand – all of which are now sold out as visitors enter into the roaring twenties to discover the murky underworld of the Peaky Blinders. As a key filming location for the epic BBC1 drama, visitors can explore the set of Charlie’s Yard and follow in the footsteps of the series’ most iconic
In addition to these high-profile events, the Museum’s Halloween and Christmas Seasons are a huge draw for families; with street entertainment, historic characters and live music on offer as visitors explore gas-lit cobbled streets.
The Museum’s next major development is currently underway thanks to the confirmation of £9.4m of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, alongside funding from the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership and Arts Council England.
The £23m project BCLM: Forging Ahead will see the Museum expand by a third, transforming the site with a major historic development focused on the period 1940s-1960s. The Museum will translocate, recreate and replicate key buildings from the area reflecting the lives and stories of people who lived in the Black Country during this time.
The buildings include:
West Bromwich Gas Showroom
West Bromwich Building Society
Marsh & Baxter’s Butcher Shop
Elephant & Castle Pub
E. Minett Ladies Clothes Shop
NHS Clinic - Infant Welfare Centre
Stourbridge Rd Co-op
J H Lavender & Co. Aluminium Foundry
Alongside the new town, a contemporary visitor centre will provide a juxtaposition against the historic site. This will see the Museum ‘turn its face’ to Castle Hill and reposition the car park and Visitor Welcome route.
The Museum’s current Rolfe Street Entrance Building will be re-purposed and refurbished as a state-of-the-art Learning Centre and an Industrial Learning Space will be created at the heart of the site. Together, they will enhance the Museum’s capacity to deliver learning activities for over 80,000 school children a year.
These developments will provide a ‘stage’ on which to explore questions around themes including how globalisation impacted trade and industry; and the origins of the region’s richly diverse population, each drawing parallels to how the region continues to change and innovate.
BCLM: Forging Ahead will create a truly world-class heritage attraction at the heart of the Black Country. It will enable BCLM to welcome in the region of 500,000 visitors per year, expand significantly, and most importantly improve the visitor experience.
Museum Chief Executive, Andrew Lovett, said: ‘We want to expand and improve our visitors’ experience, enable more people to understand the true significance of the Black Country’s heritage, and in doing so play a major role in the wider regeneration of Dudley by increasing our visitor numbers from 300,000 to 500,000 per year.”
Ninder Johal, Board Member of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) adds: “This project will play a major role in the regeneration of Dudley - strengthening the visitor economy, creating circa 143 jobs within our local area and raising the profile of the region as a place to live, work, learn, visit and invest.”
BCLM: Forging Ahead will commence in summer 2019, and be completed in 2022.