Dartmouth Park, West Bromwich, 1977

In March 1977, the Clash released their seminal 7-inch single ‘White Riot’. The cover photograph featured the band wearing spray-painted boiler suits. The b-side was titled ‘1977’, where Joe Strummer howled:

‘In 1977
I hope I go to heaven
Cause I too long on the dole
And I can’t work at all
Danger stranger
Ya’ better paint your face
No Elvis, Beatles, or the Rolling Stones’

In Dartmouth Park, West Bromwich, Jubilee Arts found themselves organising a Play Day with some Recreation & Amenities Officers (that’s what they were called back then). Some of them were wearing boiler suits, splattered and stenciled with paint. This type of event, after several editions and expansions, was to later morph into a two-day council-led popular extravaganza, then to be known as The Sandwell Show, attracting over 100,000 people. This event in 1977 was pretty low key, with the usual scary clowns, jugglers and magicians, face-painting, dressing up games, sports competitions – including the much beloved ‘welly throwing’. This event in 1977 was pretty low key, with the usual scary clowns, jugglers and magicians, face-painting, dressing up games, sports competitions – including the much beloved ‘welly throwing’. Play leaders challenged members of Jubilee to a pushball (measuring 6 feet in diameter) contest – and won 48-0. The Express & Star offered a bus; who knows if this planted the idea for the mobile Play Bus to come? There were a few burger joints, hot dog stands and stalls run by tenants groups, even a one for Friends of the Earth, founded just six years before. The police brought along a Panda car to explore, and it was claimed a new record was set by some 30 children clambering into the car at once. It was a very cold summer day in the year of Good Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee, yet the event attracted over 1,500 children and their parents.

Other events in the park that summer included the All England Custard Pie Throwing Championships, which Jubilee members also participated in, giving a short comedic history of pie throwing while offering a ‘how to’ demonstration before the 50 teams got stuck in. The News Chronicle reported that the custard was ‘in fact a sticky mixture of flour and water, and seemed like concrete as it dried. So in no time all competitors of the first All England custard pie throwing contest were wandering around looking like unbaked Yorkshire puddings.’ Two thousand five hundred pies were thrown during the day.

Jubilee Arts, incidentally, decided to change their letterhead this year to read:
Jubilee (Nothing to do with the Queen) Theatre and Community Arts Company Ltd.


Dartmouth Park is a Grade 2 listed park, recently undergoing a £6 million restoration project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and BIG Lottery. It was first opened to the public in 1878, on land the Earl of Dartmouth, a local miner owner, offered to the town council at the nominal rent of £1 per year for 99 years. On its opening day, declared a general holiday, there were some 40,000 people in attendance. At first the Earl insisted on these caveats: ‘No meetings for the discussion of political, religious or social questions or for the purpose of considering trade union disputes to be held in the Park and no religious services to be conducted there, excepting only the singing of Hymns and the delivery of short addresses on the occasion of school feasts.’ After additional extensions of land, in 1923 it was given over as freehold to the people of West Bromwich. Today, you will find a range of activities for all visitors including a play area, ornamental lakes, gym equipment, floral displays, sensory garden and a community Pavilion with viewing tower.

See: www.friendsofdartmouthpark.org.uk 

In 1977, a great deal of vandalism was blamed on young children hanging out on street corners with little to do – hence a great emphasis on providing play and youth centres. In a council discussion about prevailing vandalism, a Smethwick councillor, David Hallam, commented that it was very difficult to define a vandal. He said, “I was once asked by a Tv interviewer to get her a vandal to interview but what makes someone a vandal? There’s a little girl in a block of Smethwick flats who presses the button and then hops out, so the lift keeps stopping at a certain floor. Is she a vandal? I would recommend that council members go out and talk to some punk rockers – ask them what they think about vandalism. I want them to learn more about the younger generation.’ He also told the General Purposes Committee that he looked forward to the day Councillor John Beard started wearing safety pin through his nose.

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