In October 2022, Dr John Goodyear took a group of students, currently taking LI English Core III – Advanced: English language and cultures (32346) Mapping the English-speaking World on the programme of English as a Modern Foreign Language (EMFL), to visit the Black Country Living Museum and the Dudley Canals and Caverns, with each of the students writing a reflective piece about their experience.
Thank you to the following for allowing me to publish extracts and photos from their field trip:
Anna (Exchange Student from Germany); Zirui (Rey) (UoB EMFL with English Language); Qiuyu [Noelle] (Articulation Agreement Exchange Student from China); Elsa Ferrari (Exchange Student from Italy); Kelsey (Articulation Agreement Exchange Student from China); Yue [Christine] (UoB EMFL with English Language); Almash (Visiting Scholar, UoB).
The spectacular boat trip at the beginning of our journey was the perfect start for exploring the Black Country. It is a perfectly guided tour through the Dudley Canals and Caverns with detailed explanations about the original use of Birmingham’s canals provided by a local speaking in the Black Country dialect. Visitors could also immerse themselves into the hard-working society a hundred years ago by “legging” the boat during the one-hour experience.
If you are a Peaky Blinders fan like me, it is super exciting to see a film location where some of the episodes were filmed. You feel like a Peaky Blinder and only wait for Tommy Shelby riding towards you on his black horse.
Whether you wish to taste the best fish and chips in town, listen to an amazing dialect, see the canals from the inside or immerse yourself in the Peaky Blinder’s film scenes, visiting the Black Country should be on your bucket list while exploring Birmingham.
The first visit to the Dudley Canals and Caverns is the most unforgettable, the depth of a cavern, and the length of the canal. The miners and locals there might witness the history of the industrial revolution. The experience of getting on board and exploring a wonderful underground world, enjoying light and sound shows, historical recreations, and the beautiful nature of the canal’s surroundings were all great.
Then, we headed to the Black Country Living Museum which was like a well-protected old town that was isolated by time and space from the last century. The old shops, farms, people wearing baker hats and the milkman left deep impressions on me. Walking around the country was like being immersed in a movie.
Voyaging underneath the surface and coming deep into mines, the Dudley Canals and Caverns recreated the mine site and recorded all its history for the benefit of later generations. Projection on the limestone, canal voyage and boat legging, from which visitors like us got to know more concrete details about the Black Country and its industrial history, rather than simply learning from textbooks. What came with hundreds of industrial history was 428-million-year-old fossils in the canals, indicating that there could be more prehistoric secrets yet to be discovered.
My first impression towards the Black Country Living Museum before this trip had always been Peaky Blinders, where the TV series had several scenes filmed here. The fact is: the Black Country Living Museum is more than this. Rather than a traditional version of museum as a building, the Black Country Living Museum resembled more like a small but lively town, where people’s traditional way of living in the Black Country have been recreated and recorded, with actors and actresses imitating manners, costumes and accents of local culture. Interactions and participation made visitors feel more involved in the Black Country vibe.
At first, we had the chance to board on a long boat on the Dudley Canal where we did an hour tour discovering the environment around us and Dudley Caverns. The visit went with videos projected on the caverns, music sounds, archaeological findings and a complete explanation made by the tour guide that gave me direct contact with historical facts, the best way I can learn new things.
The second part of the trip was a visit to the Black Country Living Museum. The reproduction was well done and very deep; indeed, all of the shops and houses were full of details and smells that took me back to the past and make me live back in those days.
From a mysterious adventure of underground canals to exploring local life mingled with a tinge of coals and iron, we enjoyed the culture of the Black Country and marvelled at the perseverance and diligence of the people working here a hundred years ago.
Of all the scenic spots, what attracted me most were the Dudley Canals and Caverns. Boarding the red and green vessel used to carry tons of coals out of mines in history, we went through the tunnels with curiosity. Projection and models exhibited how mine labours worked and how the industry was cultivated in the Black Country, allowing us to develop a visual and auditory impression of this unique area.
After the fabulous trip to the canal, we walked into various stores to start a chat with people acting as people who lived here in the 1920s. Traditional fish & chips were sold in the Hobb’s and Sons shop. The high-calorie meal was closely related to the heavy work done by people here, unveiling the difficulty of industrial processes from a dietary aspect. It seemed that we flashed back to the previous life when smoke plumed the air and walls, residents worked underground for buckets of coals, and handicraftsmen made chains and brushes.
We are all from different countries and cultural backgrounds, sharing different information about languages, cultures, and social patterns. Therefore, on the whole trip, I am learning not only knowledge about Black Country history but also learning cultures in communicating with my classmates. I am also convinced that experiencing real-life context is crucial to understanding another culture. It is not the same thing when learning Fish & Chips is the classical food in textbooks as actually tasting it.
I found the Black Country Living Museum really interesting. Actors dressed like people living in the last century, performing in streets and shops. An old tailor’s shop, sweet shop and herbs shop are decorated in the old style. Moreover, taking the boat to the canal is an impressive experience.
I am very interested in learning about the culture, history, traditions, and customs of England, and I would like to obtain more lively and reliable information. My curiosity and interest in different cultures and appreciation for diversity led me here as a cultural researcher and linguist. Furthermore, the disclosure of cultural language differences among my international groupmates from Germany, China, Italy, and England is very interesting.
Our first tour started with a trip to the Dudley canals and Caverns. The boat was ridden like a pirate ship, revealing the treasures of a living museum. The guide introduced us for an hour by telling us about the history of the industrial country.
When the accompanying guide told the story, one could hear in his voice how patriotic and proud he is, and how much he enjoys telling the history and culture of his country. The smell of coal and other manufactured substances is an unusual feature that draws visitors to the industrial city.
We went to the Black Country Living Museum where I enjoyed the story of the man who beat iron, though some words were difficult to understand due to the local dialect. We also went to a candy store and a men’s shop. The seller’s attire and demeanour reminded me of old English films. The local food, fish & chips served hot, is an important feature of this region. I thought this was the most delicious food I have ever had in England.
Exploring new places broadens our horizons.