Top Ten Things to do in Wolverhampton

I’m moving away from Manchester next week, and have been making a ‘bucket list’ to do all those things I never got round to doing in the city. This led me to think about my own hometown and what at the Must DO activities there. Wolverhampton can get a really bad wrap, but I love it! Of course its close to places like Birmingham, Walsall, Coventry and Stratford Upon Avon which all have great arts and cultural hubs and things to do, but I thought I’d restrict this list to the 10 best things to do in Wolverhampton itself. Perhaps you have somebody visiting you, or maybe you’re coming to university in Wolverhampton. These are the things not to be missed….

1.Go to an event at West Park

West Park in the Winter (taken by Mummy Blollings)

West Park is massive, beautiful and central. It comes first as one of my absolute favourite places in the city. On a normal day you can go into the authentic Victorian greenhouse and look at tropical plants and fish, or take a boat onto the lake and row around for a bit. Its resplendent on a summer’s day, and full of families and groups of people playing football on its large-ish fields. Even on cold winter days, when its usually quite empty, the park has an enchanting feel to it that makes you feel you’re somewhere very different from the city. The park puts on large-scale, outdoor family events, I highly recommend Bonfire Night in November and the City Show in Summer (ALWAYS includes a car show and a horse and carriage race).

2. Explore vintage and retro finds at Wolverhampton Market

If you’ve never been inside Wolverhampton Market you might be surprised to discover the antiques section, round the corner from the fish stalls , where you can buy vintage clothes, toys, antique furniture and all sorts of weird and wonderful memorabilia. It’s a fun place to go for presents or unusual objects. The market is great for any international foods and much cheaper fruit and veg than the supermarkets. If you are looking for fancy dress outfits or theatre costumes try Actor’s Wardrobe, also based at the market, where I used to work. It has an amazingly extensive range of professional quality theatre costumes. For good quality, second-hand furniture I love to browse the Compton Hospice shop, round the corner from the market and opposite Beatties car park.

3. Go to an event or join a class at The Newhampton Arts Centre

The Newhampton Arts Centra puts on top quality music shows and performances for really accessible prices. Its a hidden gem in Wolverhampton and was one of the first venues to host revival ‘Northern Soul’ nights that are now spreading around the Midlands and Manchester. There are also regular band nights and burlesque events and vintage markets. It also runs weekly classes, clubs, has a café and displays local artwork.

4. Watch a blockbuster film with only five other people at The Lighthouse Cinema

Built in the old Chubbs Lock factory, the Lighthouse is famous for its tiny audiences! This is a unique experience of cinema-going. The prices are cheaper than nearby cineworld, and like many independent cinemas you can take a glass of wine into the auditorium. For something truly unique the Lighthouse also offers events such as themed days, classic black-and-white movies with a live soundtrack and they also show performances from the West End. If you’ve never seen a silent movie its such a great experience to watch one with live music, my dad’s dragged me along before and I loved it. This is a fantastic venue in Wolverhampton anda great place to try something new. They also have art exhibitions, cafés, open mic nights and all sorts. (Review of the cinema here)

5. Sneak behind the railway station for one of the best pies in the city at The Great Western Pub.

The old railway station in Wolverhampton is beautiful, and was designed by Brunel. Next door is The Great Western, a top pub in Wolverhampton with delicious food and lots of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sunbeam memorabilia. Other good traditional pubs are the Newhampton in Whitmore Reans (think bowling green in the summer and open fires in the winter) and the Posada in town (a small pub with beautiful tiles and stain glass). There are loads more, just ask around! If you’ve come from anywhere in the country be prepare to be astounded at the prices: great value. And, of course, they all serve Banks’.

Other good places to eat that I’ve been to recently are The Crown on the Wergs Road (gastropub), The Hamilton Restaurant overlooking West Park (fancy restuarant) and Latuske’s in Finchfield (yummy mummys). Also you can try the perpetually empty Made in Thai which has incredible decor and really nice fish.

6. Explore Wolverhampton’s history at Bantock House and the surrounding gardens (this is good for kids)

Bantock House, Wolverhampton

I have so many happy memories of wandering around Bantock House and colouring in art sheets they provide. Its a restored museum that tells of some of the city’s heritage. Wolverhampton is a city with a wealth of history and its definitely worth finding out more. The small gardens and café at Bantock are also nice when its sunny, and they do some fun family events like 1940’s days. Bantock House is at risk at the moment from cuts and it needs local support to continue.

7. Discover one of the countries largest pop art collections at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

One of the Pop Art Rooms at Wolverhampton Art Gallery

The Pop Art gallery is a great place to take people visiting Wolverhampton. Its central and its pretty impressive. They also sometimes have some great touring exhibitions, like the recent much acclaimed Ron Mueck exhibition. Perhaps more importantly, the Wolverhampton Art Gallery Café does some really exceptional cakes. Its a nice place to meet for coffee, with pretty views of St Peter’s Church. The gallery runs classes and events too.

8. Enjoy the sun and walk along the canals, the disused railway or through the bluebell wood

Bluebell wood, Wolverhampton

Another one of my absolute favourite parts of Wolverhampton is how close it is to the country side. When you get on the canal, you walk underneath the city into a world full of nature! Not everywhere has such nice canals, nor a bluebell wood. If you’re feeling adventurous you can hire a barge which is an absolute HOOT, you can also just have a chilled stroll and try to find some blackberries in the bushes. The bluebell wood is fantastic and almost always empty, head there in late spring to see a carpet of bluebells as far as the eye can see.

EDIT: we’re not sure what the real name for the bluebell wood we visit is. Its not called ‘bluebell wood’! Its by Colton Hills School and from google maps might be ‘Park Coppice‘ which is near there. The bluebells come out in spring.

9. Enjoy top-name comedians and musicians at the Civic Hall or up-and-coming artists at other venues around the city.

The Civic Hall always gets good names and big music acts. If that’s beyond your budget try the Slade Rooms for smaller, more intimate events. The Civic Hall is big and connected to the Wulfrun Hall by some confusing passages. They get a good variety of shows that attract audiences from across the black country. Also look at the Grand Theatre which puts often has big musicals (Joseph, Blood Brothers, Sister Act, Fame etc and even some RSC productions).

10. Get involved in local spirit and watch a football match at the Molineux.

This is one thing on my bucket list I’ve never done but I want to. Wolves have a strong fan base and the stadium is massive, you should probs go there.

BONUS I know I’ve already done 10 things, but the god honest truth is when somebody asks me “What is the best thing about Wolverhampton?” my answer is always immedately ‘PORK JOINT!!!’. The best Pork Baps I’ve ever tasted – gravy, apple stuffing, salt and pepper and tender pork. The best £2.50 you’ll ever spend.

All of these places only survive by the support of the locals, and many of them are at dire risk of being lost because the council is cutting funding dramatically. I love Wolverhampton but it’ll be a bit shit if everything gets shut down to make sure to support your local venues and events! If you value the arts in Wolverhampton you can contact your MPs and councillors to let them know they need to really protect funding for these great places – but perhaps the best way to protect the future of Wolverhampton’s assets is to go to them, attend the events and be a part of its cultural scene.

There are loads of things I missed off the list because I wanted to keep it to ten! What are you top tips for Wolverhampton?

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Wolverhampton cuts to voluntary sector (Save Central Youth Theatre!!!)

In Girona in Spain at an International Theatre Festival

Wolverhampton City Council have got in a big old mess, partly because of cuts from central government and partly because there was some kind of major flaw in the budgetting plans. They’ve made a bit of a booboo though and decided, as part of major cuts, to reduce their contribution to the voluntary sector from £2.5 million to just £900,000 which includes cuts to the Newhampton Arts Centre and Central Youth Theatre, two charities that don’t deserve this!

Classic Austria

To save CYT you can sign a petition now! The petition asks simply for more time, because the council wants to cut all funding in March, but with more time CYT would have the chance to work out a new way of funding itself 🙂

With CYT me and my mates travelled to Austria, Italy and Spain to represent Wolverhampton (and the country) at theatre festivals, going on my first one when I was only 13 and it was SICK! Going to the festivals gave me an interest in languages and that’s why I study them now. Its where I made some of my best, best friends and grew in confidence and its actually a bit scary to imagine how different I’d be without it.  For a city that suffers from a depressing national reputation, the voluntary sector in Wolverhampton sparkles in its commitment to do good, and is something we really deserve to be proud of. But the council is set to completely destroy this tradition in our city. 

CYT is different to other youth theatres, not least because it doesn’t charge as much as other places. It also does things very differently: 

Besides our weekly sessions on a Sunday we deliver work experience placements for school children, colleges and universities – in office admin, technical theatre and costume design.  

The kind of artistic work we deliver is very different – we regularly take members to international festivals. We concentrate on the type of productions that young people wouldn’t do in school. We try to expand their knowledge of literature, playwrights, different styles of performance work and bring in specialist tutors to develop specific skills. We also incorporate making short films into our work and projects that celebrate the heritage and history of Wolverhampton.

We regularly invite former members who now work in the theatre, film and TV industry to work with us and share their skills.  This is very inspiring for young people to realise that these professionals also started as members of CYT.” [Jane Ward MBE, the director]

They also have a store of over 10,000 professional quality costumes. You’d never believe this gem exists in Wolverhampton and you’d never believe it exists and survives because of one woman who has dedicated her life to it.

Me as a sheep xox
The council is adamant on blaming these decisions on central government, and claiming that there is simply no other way. However there is always another way. CYT was only informed of the total cut of its funding this week, and the funding will stop in March. It is absurd and unfair for the council to do this to a youth theatre that has been in Wolverhampton for 30 years, and it reflects their complete incomprehension of how small charities like CYT work, because CYT could survive if it just had more time. Its also another example of them completely undervaluing the youth theatre. I have completed so many incredible projects with CYT where hundreds of people from the city (and all over the world) have come, but not one councillor. Its hard to believe so much is achieved on such a tiny budget, and that cutting this small amount of money would completely devastate the youth theatre and take away all the opportunities it provides for young people across Wolverhampton! 
Just because its the arts doesn’t mean its expendable. It’s like Michael Sheen says: ““the arts are at the very heart of how we perceive ourselves. How we find a sense of who we are and the stories we tell and how we share and connect with each other.” They make places better to live in.
CYT is just a small speck in the vast cuts the council are making, it will become a ghost town, which is so upsetting for me because its somewhere that, because of CYT, I have been proud to call my home. So please sign the petition folksss thank u