Brades Village, 1982

There used to be a large patch of waste ground behind the houses on Brades Rise, which overlooked both the Tividale recreation ground and the old factory complex of Brades, which dated back to the 1780s, making edge tools. This empty space was an ideal site to create magic and mayhem.

In 1868 American consul Elihu Burritt visited the Brades factory, describing it as a small industrial village of buildings, which had its own mines and blast furnaces. He wrote: ‘Now considering that, with the exception of the iron imported from Sweden for making their cast-steel, the Brades Works draw all the material they manufacture into these infinitely-varied implements from the bowels of the earth around and under them, one cannot contemplate their operations and productions without admiration. Indeed they constitute one of the chief lions of The Black Country.’ By the early 1980s, most this steel production had relocated elsewhere, with their buildings were mostly reused as warehousing or left empty.

The Bus could just about get access to this wild area above the Brades through a small lane. It was here that Jubilee Arts staged a bespoke playscheme on the theme of ‘All Around the World in Seven Days’, creating different forms of transport with local youngsters from cardboard, wood and all kinds of recycled materials and off-casts. They made spaceships, pirate galleons, First World War monoplanes, giant birds, even elephants, for a procession around the streets at the end of the week. Some of the older kids had their eye of the Sony video camera – black and white! – and formed a group to go around the area and collect some news and views, particularly in relation to what older people thought about younger people. Their film was shown back at the Friday evening party. When they weren’t filming, they filched large sheets of cardboard to go sledging down a nearby steep grassy slope above the factory buildings.

In summer, the Bus would run six events of this nature around the borough, after consultation with local playgroups or tenants associations, loaded up with all the resources they might need for an action-packed week. Each playscheme usually had a team of six people with a range of skills on hand – drama, music, play, visual arts, construction – supported by another half dozen volunteers, often young people who had participated in previous events. They took on various themes – Space Week, Rock’n’Roll Week and so on – and were always memorable. They even had a rainy day plan – Jubilee had purchased a very large canvas tent – but it rarely seemed to rain in those summers, so the tent was used for making activities and on the friday night for food and entertainments. Jubilee also ran one and three day events throughout school holiday periods of the year, often testing out new ideas and approaches.

This area of Brades Village has been completely redeveloped for housing in recent years, the particular space where the play activities happened built over and now known as The Forge.

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