From tea dances to Terrorvision, Harold Wilson to Sarah Millican and The Power to Wonderkid, the Civic Halls have been a vital part of Wolverhampton's cultural life for more than eight decades. Countless people have met here, laughed here, rocked here and been inspired here – and we want to celebrate these stories.
If you have fond memories of the Civic or Wulfrun, if you queued for hours (or even days) to see your favourite band, if you were picked on by a comedian, if you performed here yourself or if your night was made complete by seeing the perfect gorilla press powerslam, then we want to hear from you.
Please email your stories, photos or memorabilia to firstname.lastname@example.org
Emotional memories from the frontman of Ned's Atomic Dustbin
The Stourbridge-based band first started playing at a national level in 1988 and by 1990, with the release of singles The Ingredients EP, Kill Your Television and Until You Find Out, they were touring continuously. “Through the year we'd been playing at lots of small venues, some gems but mostly insalubrious places,” Jonn remembers. “But we'd booked the Wulfrun for the end of the year, which, to be honest, we thought was a bit over-optimistic because it was so much bigger than the venues we'd been used to playing.
“While on tour we'd been a bit self-obsessed, concentrating on putting in a good show night after night and not really looking at the bigger picture. So, when we arrived in Wolverhampton and someone told us the Wulfrun had sold out, we couldn't believe it. At the time, the capacity of the Wulfrun was just over 900. It was incredible to think there were going to be 900 people coming to see us at our own headline show, the biggest one we had done to date.”
More than two decades on, the emotions of this sell-out gig remain crystal clear for Jonn. “I've got this really strong memory of pacing around nervously backstage before the gig. It was approaching stage time and I remember standing at the side of the stage for 15 minutes peeping at the crowd through the gap between the doors,” he says. “We had supported other bands and played in front of bigger audiences, but something hit me in that moment that this was our crowd, these people were all here to see us – and there were 900 of them! It was at that point that I realised things had become significant.”
With the local crowd behind them and the venue buzzing, Jonn and his bandmates stepped out to perform. “We got on stage and the experience got even better,” he says. “The crowd were singing our songs back at us – that was such a thrilling and fresh experience for us. It marked a real turning point for the band. I had never been in the position of having oodles of self-confidence but there comes a point where you can't deny that something has happened something that vindicates the crazy ambitions you’ve been harbouring. Wolverhampton had become our home town. That was a very, very special gig. It made clear two things: one, we were in with a shout of a recording career and two, Wolverhampton had become our home town.”
Jonn was right to feel this way; in 1991 Ned's Atomic Dustbin scored a number 4 with their debut album God Fodder and their two singles Happy and Trust made numbers 14 and 21 in the UK chart. But despite a growing national profile, the band didn't forget their roots.
“We came back to Wolverhampton at the end of the year and we'd sold out the Civic,” he says.
“It meant we could take things to the next level – we filmed our Nothing is Cool music video here. At the time this long-film format was quite new. It featured behind the scenes footage, it showed our fans - but it also showed the Civic.
“Fans from around the world saw Nothing is Cool – and also saw the Civic as a result. We now had people travelling to see us from across the world – America, Japan, Australia, Canada, Holland.
“That film entered the Civic into a lot of other people's hearts as well as ours.”
Ned's Atomic Dustbin had five big years and returned to play in Wolverhampton at the end of each one.
As Jonn says, it was a way of coming home and, by gauging crowd reaction, a way of tracking their success.
“I have toured around the world and played lots of different venues of a similar size; for me the Civic is one of the very best,” he says.
“It is a phenomenally good venue and a really great size.
“If, like we used to say, ‘you can see the whites of their eyes’ this affects your performance – it inspires you, energizes you and gets your adrenaline pumping.
“If performers can see an audience, they up their game, the crowd responds, and it all goes up a notch because you feel like you’re singing to each and every person in the room. You are connecting with all of them.
“That is the brilliance of the Civic. The vibe is astonishing. It is just perfect.”
The day my dad (possibly) stood on Mark Owen.
November the 8th 1992: the Civic was full to the brim with squeals, crop tops, and the heady aroma of Impulse body spray.
The temperature was rising, the excitement was palpable and the banners were slightly raunchy - Take That were in town. And my friends and I were in the packed hall, elbows out, whistles blowing, jostling to get to the front.
We'd been dropped off earlier by my bemused dad, who had taken one look at the heaving crowds outside and driven off muttering something about 'proper music'.But his approval wasn't required because as the music started Gary, Robbie, Mark, Howard and Jason leapt on stage - and the Civic erupted in a pretty astonishing display of teenage devotion.
To be honest, Take That weren't my first choice of gig, I was more of an indie fan, but my friends had spent a fair few months wearing me down and here I was, carried away with the excitement, waving my arms manically to Do What U Like (TT fans will fondly remember the leather-clad jelly-wiping slightly questionable video.)
The power and loyalty of teenage girl fans are perfectly captured in my memory of that gig. There was screaming loud enough to drown out the band, there were word-perfect singalongs, there was cheeky banter with the crowd and there was absolute joy on every face.
While I didn't go so far as to cry, plenty did, and we all came out surfing a huge wave of emotion - for the band, the venue and the other fans who we'd never met before and would probably never see again. And then we met my dad, who had arrived to pick us up just before that euphoric tidal wave flooded out of the Civic.
He told us that he'd been walking up to the doors when a group of sweaty young men got in his way climbing onto a big black bus. “That was Take That!!!” we yelled as one, thrilled to the core.
“Oh was it?” he replied, “I'm pretty sure I stood on the small one's foot.”
I remember laughing 'til it hurt.
Karen took her mum to see the wonderful Victoria Wood when she played at the Civic in March 1991. Over three nights, the Lancashire comedian pulled in full houses – with audiences of more than 2,000 on every night of her three-date run.
The crowds initially seemed a little overwhelming for Karen's mum, who was a bit under the weather at the time.
“But just the sheer joy of Victoria Wood made it all worthwhile,” remembers Karen, “as soon as she came on stage, all was well.”
“I remember she did some favourite sketches as well as some new material. I remember laughing 'til it hurt."
And no night with Victoria was going to be complete without her oft-quoted comedy song.
“The ballad of Barry and Freda was the encore, and the crowds made it quite clear that we were not going home without it,” says Karen.
“We were all waiting for that immortal line about the Woman's Weekly.”
I saved my paper round money to see Green Day
Green Day was my first ever gig. It was October 1994 and they'd just started to break through to a more international audience, probably thanks to MTV.
My friend and I were only 13 at the time and we'd both saved up our paper round money to go.
We'd bought our tickets from Mike Lloyds in town - where I'd also bought a copy of Dookie as a US import.
It was about £14 I think – a lot of money when a paper round is your only income.
We listened to it non-stop so when we saw Green Day were coming to Wolverhampton, it obvious that we had to go.
We were quite young at the time, so I remember feeling quite apprehensive as well as excited because most of the crowd were a lot older then us.
I'd borrowed my brother's paratrooper boots – partly for safety to stop my feet being trampled on - but also to try and fit in.
We were probably the youngest there but we knew the album inside out so recognised every song, not just the bigger hits like Basket Case and When I Come Around.
I remember the band opened feather pillow cases into the crowd so everyone came out of the Wulfrun covered in feathers.
My first gig started a real passion for music and I went to the Wulfrun and Civic many times after that.
My first gig at the Civic was Offspring in April '95, I remember looking over the balcony onto the floor below and seeing the entire floor had become a mosh pit.
I was just 14 and I remember being both excited and quite scared.
After that I went whenever I could. I've seen Ash, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Bluetones, Skunk Anansie, Blink 182, Terrorvision as well as Jimmy Carr and Michael McIntyre.
My friends and I used to hang around outside the Civic and ask the bands if we could get on the guest list.
One in particular I remember was a band called Soulfly. We'd not been able to get tickets, but as we were standing outside the Civic we saw the singer Max Cavalera who asked us what we were doing.
We told him that we wanted to get in but couldn't. The next thing we knew, Max was saying 'come with me' and three minutes later we were in and he was on stage.
If I had to choose, I would probably say my top five gigs were: Icelandic band Sigur Ros, the Deftones, Elbow, Portishead and Damien Rice.
The Damien Rice gig was memorable because for one song it was just him at the piano. You could hear a pin drop because everybody in the hall was completely transfixed.
The Wulfrun and Civic halls are amazing venues. Because they are in my home town, I think I take for granted how good they actually are.
They are both intimate and at the same time large enough, the atmosphere and the acoustics are just great.
My children are only young at the moment, but when they're teengers I'm hoping that there will be bands there that they will watch and enjoy as much as I have.
The Queen at the Civic: All I knew was that I had to wave my flag
It was May 1962 and all of the schools in Wolverhampton were invited to come and see the Queen on her visit to the Civic Hall.
I was in infants school, Old Fallings Park, so I must have been about five or six and I remember the school gave us all the day off and little Union Jack flags.
We lived in Low Hill so it would have been quite a trek for me and my mom to walk all the way into town.
But I remember walking along the Cannock Road and into town via Littles Lane where there were some little steps.
I vividly remember going up those steps and just being absolutely surrounded by grown-ups.
I didn't realise the enormity of it, all I knew was that I had to wave my flag.
The Civic Centre wasn't built at that time, it was an open space where the market used to be held so everyone crowded on there and we were crammed in among them.
I did see the Queen though - my mum must have lifted me up so I could see her. She was dark haired and slim and I remember thinking how small she was.
There was a little girl that stepped forward and gave her some flowers and I remember thinking: 'How did she get that job? I could do that!'
The Civic and Wulfrun Halls have been around for as long as I can remember.
I am sure I remember my mom saying she used to go to wrestling matches there and it has always been a place we have gone to for events.
I used to dance when I was younger and we would have our exams on the Wulfrun stage which was a bit nerve-racking.
Later on there were DJs who used to do disco nights and DJ Derbies – I went to one where the DJ flung a frisbee into the crowd which then hit me on the back of the head. I didn't even get to keep it!
My husband used to work at Chubbs, they used to have their works Christmas dinner there, and in the past few years I went to see Blur with my daughter – that was quite the experience.
I was surrounded by all these six-foot-tall chaps jumping around. But I just decided to just go with it.
The halls have even been part of my working life – I work in the electrical department at the council and a few years ago one of the lights outside the Civic Hall got damaged.
We had to find someone who could recreate the original design so I set about finding someone who could do it.
The lamp took three to four months to make as it had to be sand moulded and recreated perfectly to match. The only thing was it looked so new and white that it took some time for the weather to help it match the others.
To me and my family, the halls have always been quite pivotal. They have been there all throughout my life and I hope they will continue to be enjoyed by my children and my grandchildren.
I just remember thinking: 'This is Elton John - and he's running around the Civic'
My experience of the Civic is just brilliant, we saw everyone.
It started off with the Alex Harvey Band and Slade, then Hawkwind, Soft Machine and The Jam.
But it led on to other things because we were weaned on the Civic and we got the taste for music.
We saw Queen, that was an amazing show. We saw Elton John, the story goes that when he got here there was no one to meet him – he had to go into the office and ask if anyone was there!
When his show started people were sitting nicely in their seats, it was all very reserved. Until 20 minutes into the gig he got off the stage and ran right into the crowd.
I just remember thinking: 'This is Elton John - and he's running around the Civic.'
I saw ELO when there was a bomb scare and we all had to go outside while they searched the building. Jeff Lynne made a quick reference to it when we got back in and they all just kept on playing.
It was the Civic that allowed us to see these amazing bands before they went on to become huge international artists.
My Uncle George was a bouncer at the Civic, he met everyone and even appears in a photograph on a Slade album. He met David Bowie and said what a lovely bloke he was.
I saw Slade just before they finished and musically they were probably more brilliant than they had ever been. But fashions were changing and punk was coming along.
I clearly remember the night punk really started to break through; I saw The Jam at the Civic and went into the bar - half the audience were covered in safety pins and the other half hadn't caught on yet.
I also remember sitting upstairs in the Civic, leaning on the balcony with my chin in my hands. Leo Sayer saw me from the stage and he put his hands in the same position, mimicking me. That was how close we were to him and the kind of thing that makes the Civic so special.
It wasn't until we went to other venues that we realised just how brilliant the Civic was. I would go to the Odeon in Birmingham and the performers were a million miles away, at the Civic they were in the room with you.
I think the greatness of the Civic was that you felt you were in the show. It wasn't us and them, it was all of us.
When a night with the Beastie Boys turned into an epic boys versus girls snowball fight
I’ve seen lots of musicians and comedians in Wolverhampton including a tiny Lemonheads gig in the Slade rooms, Alan Carr at the Civic and Peeping Tom (Mike Patton’s band) at the Wulfrun.
In March 1995 I went to see the Beastie Boys at the Civic, the gig had been rescheduled from November and they’d recently released their album Ill Communication with the song Sabotage.
This tune turned a student night into a wrestling match so it was with some apprehension that I went to the gig! I put my best Adidas tshirt and Vans on ready to fit in with all the skaters at the show.
Hovering at the back with my friend Claire for safety we looked on in delight as hundreds of teenage boys wrestled and pushed each other over - including our friends who were in our group.
Kung fu-style kicks were flying as people re-enacted the mock cop show video where the Beasties chased each other and rolled over car bonnets.
We stayed safely out of the way but little did we realise we hadn’t completely escaped.
As the gig finished we stepped outside to see that it had been snowing whilst we were inside and there was a deep covering on the ground. We were thrilled and promptly started a boys versus girls snowball fight plus more Sabotage style wrestling on the Wolverhampton streets.
We found ourselves thrown on the floor by our overexcited pals in the spirit of the Beasties - luckily the snow provided a soft landing.
Our excitement only subdued when we realised there were no taxis or buses running to get us home.
Well before the days of mobile phones we crammed into a phone box to call an unsuspecting parent to rescue five slightly bruised and very damp teenagers!
And then, for the encore, he brought out Brian May.
The atmosphere that night was absolutely amazing, I’ve never seen a show like it. It was the best gig I’ve ever been to.
And then, for the encore, he brought out Brian May.
It was their first public performance since Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. I listen to the bootleg from time to time and it still makes me smile and makes me feel warm at the start of Under Pressure.
You hear: “We found this curly haired guy outside and thought you'd like to meet him...” and Brian strolls on.
They did Under Pressure, a cover of Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll and Radio Ga Ga.
The noise when Brian appeared was incredible and nearly 22 years on it still amazes me. If you ever hear the bootleg, the place really did go that wild. I can still remember what looked like The Red Special being tuned behind Pete Malandrone's (Brian May's tech assistant) coat. If only there was a video!
It’s often said that evening was probably the night that Brian May and Roger Taylor decided they should do more under the Queen name. It's mythical in Queen circles!
I was 16 years old and just finding my way in the world and starting out as a musician - and I got to see my two absolute heroes up close in my home town. Even better, my Dad was with me that night.
I've had the pleasure of seeing both Brian and Roger solo, Roger with his band The Cross and with Queen & Paul Rodgers / Queen & Adam Lambert but this is by far the best night.
I've met them both, but I have to say that this still tops everything as the ultimate experience!
Over the years I've seen some great acts at the Civic and Wulfrun and worked on the crew for a couple of shows too.
My very first show was at The Civic in 1988 (Keith Harris and Orville supported by The Chuckle Brothers!!!) and over the years I’ve seen Ian Hunter and had the pleasure of hanging out with my friend Jeff Scott Soto when he played there with Soul SirkUS and on a solo tour in 2004 / 2005.