First Look: The Cultural Quarter’s new independents

Considering today is ‘Small-business Saturday,’ this presents the perfect opportunity to discuss the explosion of independent businesses that have opened up in Hanley’s Cultural Quarter. Our independent game is already going strong with the likes of tsp, Klay, 51-53 Store, Bottlecraft, The Art Department and RAWR so it’s fantastic to see even more places that can be added to the list! Here’s where you need to be heading next time you’re in town…

Piccadilly Brasserie

This restaurant is a real broad church when it comes to cuisine, clearly influenced by all sorts of European cultures. The menu boasts a range of grills, fish dishes, pastas and burgers as well as daily specials and they cater for “brunch, lunch and dinner.” You can find them just opposite the Regent Theatre, making Piccadilly Brasserie the perfect spot for a pre-theatre meal. However,they also offer coffee, cake and a Christmas Afternoon Tea so there’s something for all occasions. According to their website, the owners have 25 years of experience in the business so you’ll certainly be in safe hands.

The Quarter 

Opening on Monday 5th December, The Quarter brings something entirely different to the city centre. You can expect a cosy cafe by day and a bistro-style eatery by night, along with a delicatessen which is open right through their trading hours; but best of all, they will be hosting regular live entertainment from every genre you can imagine. Comedy shows, poetry reading, music to suit all tastes; customers will be able to enjoy events that they perhaps won’t find anywhere else. I had a quick peek inside their window last time I was in town and I can’t wait to bag a sofa and try out their food!

Sweet. 

I fear I might be pushing the boundaries of ‘small businesses’ by including this new venture, as there are already three other branches across the country, but I’m going to go ahead and include it anyway because folk need to hear about it! Sweet is a desserts bar like no other – you name it, they’ve got it! We’re talking waffles, crepes, classic puds, cookie dough, milkshakes and gelato to name a few, along with an extensive drinks menu and speciality hot chocolates. Launching next Friday 9th December, you can find them on Stafford Street for all your sweet-tooth needs.

My Christmas holidays start just at the right time to give these new businesses a try, so keep your eyes peeled for reviews in the next few weeks.

First Look: TEDx Stoke

“Ideas worth spreading.” That’s a strap line I can get on board with. TED Talks have been making great ideas accessible for over 30 years now and on Saturday 3rd December, TED comes to Stoke-on-Trent.

The day will be held at my own stomping ground, Stoke Sixth Form College, and has been organised by Dave Murray who teaches English at Stoke SFC. The conference line up features speakers on all sorts of topics, from local projects to broader arts and technology themes but all under the umbrella theme of ‘Facing the Future.’ Here are a couple of talks that have caught my eye so far…

James Adams. It was James that told me about TED talks coming to Stoke in the first place, although he failed to mention that he’d been shortlisted as a speaker himself. ‘Kickstart your dreams: 99 doors but you only need 1’ will focus on his “golden rule for launching projects.” [That is a quote straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were!]

Sally Smith. Sally heads up Sanctus, an incredible organisation working tirelessly to support asylum seekers and refugees within our city. In ‘The Wealth of Nations,’ she will be drawing on her own experiences of working with Sanctus and how this work fits in with transforming our city.

Stewart McNicol. Stewart teaches English at Stoke SFC and I think he may have even taught my first A Level English Language taster lesson. His talk, entitled ‘Future Englishes’ will be exploring the intricacies and quirks of the English Language and what constitutes ‘correct English.’

Stoke-on-Trent is becoming more exciting by the minute, whether it’s authentic new businesses opening up in the cultural quarter or grassroots arts movements in Stoke town; TEDx Stoke will undoubtedly be an ideal forum to discuss the future of our city and keep the great ideas flowing…

Find tickets at http://tedxstoke.com/tickets/ 

front-page-plus-tix-on-sale-1024x747


More information at : http://tedxstoke.com/

Find out more about Sanctus: http://www.sanctusstmarks.co.uk/about_us

First Look: Appetite’s Summer 2016 programme

Appetite Stoke cropped up on the blog very briefly a couple of posts ago, so it’s definitely about time that they take centre stage as their jam-packed summer programme has already began.

Their headline show, The Enchanted Chandelier, is a performance not to be missed. On Saturday 13th August (and Sunday 14th too!), French company ‘Transe Express‘ will completely transform Central Forest Park as it hosts a mesmerising ensemble of acrobats and musicians performing with their giant chandelier. Their weekend in Stoke-on-Trent is followed by visits to Budapest, Strasbourg & Belfast, having also previously performed in world class cities like Singapore and Sydney. How wonderful that we now have the opportunity to watch such a top quality show too! To fully complete the evening, a range of food will be on offer and the brilliant Bottlecraft will be in charge of the bar (so you are in good hands!) Very reasonably-priced tickets can be purchased via Appetite’s website or at the New Vic Theatre’s Box Office with doors opening at 6.30pm each night, supporting acts from 7.15pm and The Enchanted Chandelier itself at 8.30pm.

The following weekend, Saturday 20th August, you can find Appetite down at the Spode Works in Stoke. In association with the British Ceramics Biennial, Appetite are celebrating International Clay Day as part of their ‘Taster Tour 2016.’ With things to make, eat & watch throughout the day – including ‘home-inspired’ ceramics and superhero-inspired dance – the Taster Tour: Stoke has something for everyone. Best of all, everything is entirely free so get down there and join them from 11am.

Bank Holiday weekend sees Appetite’s Big Feast takeover the city centre, bringing all manner of performance to various locations for very little or no cost. The cabaret nights are likely to be a highlight, filled with 1920’s dance and- direct quote- ‘fat opera singers’ along with Company Chameleon’s ‘Of Man & Beast.’ I was lucky enough to see Company Chameleon perform at Stoke’s Big Dance Weekend back in July and can confirm they are enthralling to watch. Nevertheless, cabaret and dance are by no means the extent of what the Big Feast has to offer so check out the full line up on the Appetite website.

Appetite Stoke aims to encourage people within the city to create and participate in more arts-based activities as research shows we have generally had fewer opportunities to access such events than other places within the UK. Their work is so important so please support them and get involved with their summer programme if you can. Take your grandma for a day out or entertain the kids or just go along yourself…who knows, you might discover you have a secret passion for marching bands or tea dances, but you won’t know until you try!


More information on Appetite’s Summer programme can be found on their website: http://www.appetitestoke.co.uk/whatson

 

FIRST LOOK: Hot Air 2016, Stoke Literary Festival

I feel like most people across the country would argue that “Stoke Literary Festival” is a bit of an oxymoron. So, if you’re reading this and thinking exactly that, can I politely encourage you to keep an open mind as I think you may be pleasantly surprised, if not a little impressed with this year’s set up. We’ve been a creative city – making beautiful things – for many years, so why would curating a literary festival be any different? Now in its third year, “Hot Air” Literary Festival will be held at the wonderful Emma Bridgewater Factory, Lichfield Street over the 9-11th June 2016. (Giving you the perfect opportunity to visit the factory cafe which, in case you missed it, I LOVE! See my review here)

The website quotes Emma Bridgewater as saying it all began with “a quick discussion with Tristram Hunt”- as so many things appear to do so at the moment, for example, the recently developed scheme to attract more maths teachers to the city. And what is the finished result? An eclectic programme from all sorts of authors, presenters and performers.

Some of this year’s guests are truly enormous names: Nick Hornby will be contributing to the opening session; every middle-aged, middle class woman’s favourite, Kirstie Alsopp will be in conversation with Emma Bridgewater and of course, Tristram Hunt will be making an appearance too. Nevertheless, I find myself, rather oddly, most excited about the children’s line up which includes a workshop based on David Walliams’ “Gangsta Granny” and Cressida Cowell of “How to train your dragon” fame.

The festival finale will feature what can perhaps be referred to as Stoke-on-Trent’s best export of 2015: The Great British Pottery Throw Down. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would secretly love the opportunity to find out a little bit more about the show and hear from some of the contestants… and with a confirmed second series to come, maybe it has the potential to match Bake Off’s success? On a more serious note, this event will also discuss the impact the show has had on the city and the opportunities it could create within the pottery industry. Now, that is a conversation I’d like to hear!

Finally, new to the festival this year is the Hot Air Fringe. Stoke Literary Festival is encouraging groups across the city to organise book/reading/writing-themed events during the run up (April, May & June 2016) to the festival weekend. Anything goes so long as it encourages folks’ interest in literature- the world is your oyster- so if you’ve got something in mind, use the contact form on their website to let them know.

All in all, the varied festival line-up and the newly added fringe look set to make 2016’s “Hot Air Literary Festival” the best one yet. Just make sure you don’t miss out on your tickets…

hot air.png

Hot Air: Stoke Literary Festival


 

Hot Air Literary Festival Website: http://www.stokeliteraryfestival.org/

Get involved with the Festival Fringe: http://www.stokeliteraryfestival.org/hotair-fringe-get-involved/

Emma Bridgewater Factory: http://emmabridgewaterfactory.co.uk/

Stoke-on-Trent Maths Teachers’ Scheme: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/23/stoke-council-and-bet365-launch-1m-scheme-to-attract-maths-teachers