I’ve been debating whether to mention this or not, but I guess I ought to really, The Brownhills Blog was a year old last week. To be perfectly honest, I’m quite surprised it survived the first couple of months, and totally bewildered that it’s still going today. I’ve delved into the genesis of this rambling pile on several occasions here, but when I started, I really had no idea what I was doing. There was tons of stuff I wanted to write about – from rants at local government to local history, musings on the countryside around to to grumbles about the media. The problem was, I didn’t know how to write about any of it, and I know only slightly more now.
The first post was unleashed here on WordPress on the 2nd May 2009 – it was a plug for a piece I’d liked on Political Penguin’s blog. I didn’t unleash a proper post until the 4th May, when I blogged some ride photos. I gradually wrote other posts, and by the 7th May, I’d plucked up enough courage to start ranting. In the process, although I’m not sure of the chronology, I variously discovered other local blogs – The Lichfield Blog, Stymaster’s Pigblog, The Bloxidge Tallygraph – and then I found The YamYam. Without the support of fellow bloggers, my efforts would definitely have faltered at the first hurdle. Stymaster in particular has provided constant support, inspiration, contribution and debate. The Lichfield Blog introduced me to the hyperlocal scene – and, although I hate the term, I was soon to explore a world of people creating news and opinion for themselves in their own communities. I was hooked.
I owe more to Mark Blackstock and his fabulous Walsall news site The YamYam than to any other single element. Mark has relentlessly plugged the local blogs, putting our stories up alongside those of mainstream, conventional media with equal weight. A huge number of people have come to my work through The YamYam, and I use it daily to find stories, find opinion, and just find out whats going on locally. Mark compiles his site with wit, care and deft judgement. I’ll always appreciate his part in this. I would only have had a fraction of the current 48,000+ hits without his unwavering support. If yo’re from Walsall and don’t have The YamYam in your favourites list, then you’re missing out.
In the twelve months since I commenced, I’ve posted 221 articles, and received over 400 user comments. I’ve generated a small amount of controversy, had a few jousts with conventional media, irritated a few people but on the whole, I’ve tried to write about stuff that I’m interested in, and that I feel strongly about. I’ve learned huge amounts about local history – and for those who have answered queries, proposed questions or shot the breeze, I have nothing but gratitude. You guys make it worthwhile. Together, we’ve delved into, and recorded the subterranean history of a now lost, abandoned reservoir, rediscovered a quiet peace garden, located pictures of a long-gone butchers shop. We’ve shared in memories of closed garages, barbers, fish shops and demolished houses. We found the real, rather sad story behind a man barricaded into his house, looked into the polluted past of Clayhanger and tried to find the owner of a classic american car. We observed that councils never really change, that large copper carp don’t fall in straight lines and that cycling coppers ain’t what they used to be. I personally have learned that illegal scramblers and graffiti kids are thicker than you’d ever imagine.
One of the things I was worried about in the early days of the blog was running out of steam and subject matter. I’d say I’ve only written 50% of the articles I planned to when I started. I still have those to write – as well as loads more that have occurred to me since. Right now, my only problem with the blog is having the time to write and compile the kind of articles you the readers like.
Whilst partaking in this adventure, I’ve got into the world of Twitter and the local online community. There is a constant background thrum of continual conversation, humour and warmth going on there. To all I’ve laughed with, sparred with or chatted to, I thank you for your support and warm hand of friendship. I’d like to particularly thank @stevieboy378, who’s made lots of great contributions here, and @danslee who’s not half bad for a press officer.
There’s loads of stuff coming up for the Brownhills Blog. There will, I’m sure, be the now customary mix of rants, local history, planning discussions and photos I’ve taken while out and about. I’ve got some articles planned about some surprisingly obscure bits of local history. I promise that I’ll keep doing this as long as you readers remain as involved and enthusiastic as you are now. You contributions are always welcome and I’m prepared to post up anything here that may be of interest to locals – be it history, opinion, events or shared media. That’s what this blog is here for.
I guess what I’m really trying to say is, well, thanks, it’s been real fun so far and I’m hoping for loads more to come. You’re wonderful.