Stafford in the East Midlands is the centre of the county of Staffordshire. The nearest larger cities to Stafford are Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Local and national services are operated from Stafford Bus Station, which is located within the town centre, beside the railway station. Local services are operated by First and Arriva, who offer services to Stafford from Wolverhampton and the large English theme park, Alton Towers. Arriva services continue beyond the borders of Stafford to bring passengers into the town from Uttoxeter, Lichfield and Penkridge. National services are offered by Green Line and National Express. Green Line are the main operator providing direct services to London and Kent, with National Express providing regular services to Burnley and Southsea.
The town of Stafford grew in importance within the Midlands as one of the main areas in the UK for shoe production. In the 21st century, the town has grown a loyal legion of fans for its small town feel and understated nightlife. The town has largely resisted large chains appearing in the city centre, which offers small, independently owned shops, bars and restaurants. For both day and night activities, most of the central locations are within an easy walk or bus ride from each other. The cultural scene within Stafford is small, but increasingly important to the members of the community, who see a large number of cultural events taking place at the local Gatehouse Theatre. Many visitors interested in the history of the region take trips to Stafford Castle, which was originally built by the invading Normans in the 11th century, and with much of the present building dating back to the 19th century. An annual Shakespeare festival takes place in the grounds of the castle and is one of the major attractions within the area.
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