The clocks have turned back, the nights draw in, the weather gets more miserable and it’s nearly time to dust off a VHS copy of John Carpenter’s slasher classic ‘Halloween’. This photograph was taken adjacent to Farley Park Lodge in Whitehall Road, Greets Green, West Bromwich. The Lodge was built originally as the residence of the Park Keeper and was later used as a Library. The Reading Room there was then used as the base of Jubilee Arts from the mid 1970s, for over 10 years. They spent their first winter there without any heating. This room contained a makeshift office, silkscreen printing and reprographic facilities in the form of a Gestetner scanner and electric golfball typewriter, held storage racks, mostly for cardboard and tins of paint, an outside toilet and a kitchen which doubled as a darkroom. Tucked into one corner was a black and white Sony film recorder and playback monitor.
The car park next door, where the Bus was parked when not kept at West Bromwich Bus Garage, was for the church hall of St. Peters. It was often used for events by Jubilee in association with a local association, Farley Social Group, in this instance for a Halloween event, particularly atmospheric with the graveyard so close by.
In the UK back then celebrating Hallowe’en was a niche thing – you couldn’t get witches’ hats, broomsticks or bloodshot eyeballs in the supermarket, you had to make them yourself, and local kids and adults set about making all the ingredients from scratch – or more specifically, with cardboard, bamboo, wire, paint, papier-mache. Apart from the decorations and costumes, there was an ever-popular barn dance band, a shadow puppet show, apple bobbing, lots of fake spider webs, spooky storytelling, a fortune teller, plenty of pumpkins, blood curdling drinks and themed food cooked up by spirited volunteers. The content of the event was very much directed by the interests of the participants, who worked solidly for over two weeks to create the props, decorations and publicity.
From its inception Jubilee had a penchant for organising Horror themed playschemes. Vampires were still in the realm of Hammer Horror and Christopher Lee, and ghosts were likely to have come straight from The Station Hotel in Dudley. There were no complaints. There was no threat to the spiritual lives of children: indeed, some view being taught about death and mortality, as well as the ways of Celtic ancestors, to be a valuable life lesson and a part of local heritage. While tales of ghosts and hauntings were part and parcel of Black Country folklore, there was no trick or treating, as that particular American custom and subsequent commercialisation of the ancient festival of Samhain had not yet reached the Black Country.