This weekend sees a celebration of the 100 most skilled and talented people in the Black Country, as voted for by locals.
Members of the public nominated people they know who are ‘brilliant at what they do’ – from gardeners to painters, poets to supermodels… the list represents a diverse and truly brilliant slice of Black Country life.
On Friday, a glitzy ceremony will announce the 100 Masters, followed by an Expo open to the public on Saturday at the Starworks, Wolverhampton.
This offers the people who nominated a friend, neighbour, colleague or celebrity the chance to get closer to some of the Masters who will be showcasing work and holding sessions and family events through the day.
Project coordinator Liam Smyth of Creative Black Country, the Arts Council England body behind the scheme, said:
‘There’s been a lot of focus on the history and heritage of the Black Country, and we thought it was time to acknowledge the ingenuity and wealth of knowledge and skills alive today.’
The Black Country was forged at the hands of men and women from all walks of life who honed their skills to the highest levels. It was through their craftsmanship and diligence that the region became renowned as the industrial heartland of the UK, and while we successfully recognise our great industrial heritage, we believe it is time to represent the present-day masters who have been making tremendous strides.
‘All 100 Masters were identified by Black Country people. These are people who are brilliant at what they do, from all backgrounds and skill levels, from making the best bread in Tipton to brewing the best beer in Dudley.’
The public really embraced the idea, as word spread through the Express and Star in a campaign using augmented reality. Readers were able to interact with an image in the paper which then triggered an animation on their smartphone.
The entry criteria defined a Master as:
‘a noteworthy person who has forged their own path and displayed outstanding ability that has influenced others in their field.
A master can be from any walk of life… but they must have either been born, educated, lived or worked in the Black Country for a significant period of time.’
‘In the end we had hundreds of entries,’ Liam said. ‘We put together a panel made up of community representatives from all four regions –Dudley, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell – and our 100 Masters were chosen by the panel.’
There are award-winning writers, Chelsea gold-winning gardeners, international art directors, up-and-coming artists, local entrepreneurs and world-class athletes.
Laura Howell was the first female cartoonist in The Beano | Parv Kaur tours with her female-only Bhangra group Eternal Taal | Erin O’Connor is a supermodel from Brownhills |Emma Purshouse is a poetry slam champion | Drew Roper specialises in stop-motion animation | Daniel Westwood is a globally-renowned digital designer | Dean Melbourne is a painter with an international profile | Elizabeth Ilsley is a fashion designer rated by Kim Kardashian | Sathnam Sanghera is an award-winning writer and journalist | Lofty Wright is a traditional blacksmith from Walsall | John Neave is a traditional Wolverhampton printer | Liz Berry is a Forward Prize-winning poet
‘The whole idea is to build aspiration in the local area,’ Liam added. ‘We’ve started with 100 Masters, but this is potentially about the 1000 Masters of the future.
‘We’re looking at taking our current Masters out there to deliver masterclasses and forge links in the community, encouraging our arts producers to be more socially responsible to the area, and our young people to aspire.
‘We’ve also commissioned some artists to feature the Masters and are getting some great work coming through from visual artist Laura Dicken, Urban Hacks, Juno Projects and performance artist Amelia Beavis-Harrison.’
The Festival of Masters takes place on Saturday 25 November, Starworks Warehouse, Wv2 from 11am. Free entry, all ages welcome.
Featured image of Luke Perry © Laura Dicken