Some of the UK’s best street entertainers will be performing in Bilston this weekend as part of a Christmas festival aimed at attracting more people to the town.
And, following extra funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority, the three-day Bilston Christmas Street Festival will now include circus acts which can normally be seen at top locations like Covent Garden, Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The street circus is being staged by Yellow Bus Events and will give visitors to the chance to enjoy a programme of family entertainment, including acrobats, jugglers, clowns, comedy sketches, and a host of other acts.
One of the street circus acts performing earlier this year
The additional funding for the street circus comes as the WMCA pumps tens of millions of pounds from its Single Commissioning Framework and Investment Programme into projects that can revive the fortunes of town centres.
The wider Christmas Street Festival, which is taking place in Church Street and the Outdoor Market area of the town, is being organised by the Bilston Business Improvement District (Bilston BID) with support from City of Wolverhampton Council.
Bilston BID manager Simon Archer said: “Bilston is really fortunate to have been awarded this money.
“We were looking at putting on a small event just before Christmas, but now we've been able to do something really special, which will hopefully provide a massive boost to the businesses during the most important time of the year and give visitors a Christmas celebration to remember."
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, who chairs the WMCA and is the former managing director of retail giant John Lewis, added: “This is an excellent example of how we are using new funding from our Devolution Deal with government to help reverse the fortunes of our town centres.
“We will be announcing a string of exciting new schemes to support our town centres in the weeks ahead and while many of these will involve direct intervention in land and infrastructure we are also backing smaller, community-based initiatives like this festival that can attract families and other visitors to our high streets.
“Town centres were once the beating heart of our communities but modern, online shopping habits and other factors have had a drastic effect and we now need to re-invent and repurpose them for a new era.
“We believe that by working together with local councils and traders we can succeed in breathing new life and pride into our towns.”
A Regional Town Centres Task Force featuring prominent people from the worlds of retail, development, finance, housing, education and Government, has already been set up by the WMCA and Mayor.
The Taskforce is working closely with local councils and aims to strike a balance between preparing the ground for longer term projects and carrying out quick wins, like supporting the Bilston Christmas Street Festival, to provide tangible evidence that positive change can be achieved quickly.
City of Wolverhampton Council cabinet member for city economy, Cllr Harman Banger, said: “The regeneration of the City of Wolverhampton and the opportunity to bring vitality to our local centres, such as Bilston, is a key priority for the council.
“The BID and partners of Bilston have worked hard to showcase local businesses and attract residents from near and far to visit Bilston, this event with the support from WMCA will add to the good work which is already underway in Bilston.”
The WMCA has also launched a dedicated town centre renewal programme which is initially focused on five locations that have been nominated by their local councils - Bilston, Dudley, West Bromwich, Walsall and Bordesley Green.
This is in addition to the wider investment and infrastructure the WMCA is putting into towns right across the West Midlands.
Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio holder for housing and regeneration and leader of Walsall Council, said: “We’ve been investing in and improving local centres for some time as they’re vital to the borough’s economy.
“Events like this bring communities together and make people proud of their area. I hope the event is well supported.”
Cllr Bird said the WMCA would act as a catalyst to help speed up and support local councils in the delivery of their town centre plans and ideas, for example by using its Housing and Land funds to open up new development opportunities.