Top Five: latest happenings!

Graduating, teacher-training and all round required adult-ness have meant my cultural explorations of Stoke-on-Trent have recently taken a bit of a back seat. Nevertheless, I am back with my five most exciting discoveries within our wonderful city…

  1. Piccadilly’s Latest Additions. Bottlecraft, previously located on Marsh Street, are now fully settled in to their new home at number 33 Piccadilly. The new digs offer far more seats, fridge space and keg lines than at their first home, as well as an upstairs space which they’ll be using for all sorts of events including their next tasting evening > http://www.bottlecraft.beer/single-post/2017/08/05/The-Boys-Are-Back-In-Town-A-Tasting-Evening. Having popped in yesterday for a beer-related birthday gift, I can confirm the guys are just as friendly and helpful as ever, even to complete beer-novices such as myself.
    There were also some exciting, DIY-related noises coming out of number 41 Piccadilly – only a few doors down from Bottlecraft – and after 5 minutes of googling, I can confirm that ‘Bar 41‘ will be bringing quality gins and even more craft beer to the city centre later this month.
  2. Well Now You Know. Stoke’s cultural scene is going from strength to strength and as such we are in desperate need of some means to keep track of the goings on across the city. Enter Well Now You Know. A recently launched website with detailed on information on events and venues within the city, as well as a blog and opportunity to submit your own events. If there’s something going on, this will be the place to find out.
  3. New Developments. The beautiful (but long-empty) Bethesda building, on the corner of Albion street and Bethesda street, is set to become a boutique hotel along with a tearoom and restaurant. The rooms will be themed on Stoke-on-Trent’s pottery giants such as Wedgewood – a lovely acknowledgement of the city’s heritage – and provide a quality place to stay at the heart of the cultural quarter.
    In terms of new developments, the building of private-rented apartments on the Smithfield site have just been launched for consultation, not long after the announcement of the proposed Hilton Garden Inn. If we want to retain the young professionals who fleetingly live here while at university, we need to build suitable and affordable accommodation within the city centre and this development is certainly one option! View the proposals here.
  4. 2021 City of Culture Bid. We’ve only gone and made the shortlist for the 2021 title of UK City of Culture!!!!! A more detailed bid is currently being compiled in the hope that we can beat Coventry, Paisley, Sunderland and Swansea for the title. The winner will be announced later this year so watch this space.
  5. British Ceramics Biennial 2017. Having started in 2009, the British Ceramics Biennial returns to the city for the fifth time this September with it’s variety of exhibitions, events and activities. The programme expanses venues across the city, from the Spode Works in Stoke town to Middleport Pottery and Gladstone Pottery Museum – get involved and celebrate the creative potential of ceramics and Stoke-on-Trent alike.
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Top Five: Reasons why Stoke-on-Trent should become City of Culture 2021

As soon as we revealed our intention to campaign for the City of Culture 2021 title, I’m sure many folk around the country (who have never actually set foot inside Stoke-on-Trent) snorted and guffawed at the idea. In the national press, our city has rarely been discussed in reference to a rich cultural scene; instead, we are reduced to a poor, uneducated and overweight city. Yes, we are still struggling with the lasting impacts of the total destruction of our industries and yes, education in Stoke-on-Trent needs to improve, but none of these things can take away the cultural activity that is currently subsuming the city. Here are five examples illustrating why Stoke-on-Trent deserves the 2021 title:

  1. Festivals. Stoke-on-Trent hosts a plethora of different festivals of all shapes and sizes. At the larger scale, there’s the Hot Air Literary Festival. Hosted at the Emma Bridgewater Factory for the past 3 years, we’ve seen huge names from the literary world pootle down to Stoke to share their thoughts and experiences including the likes of Nick Hornby, Joanna Trollope and Michael Palin! The British Ceramics Biennial is another wonderful example, celebrating everything pottery in the old Spode Factory. Another Stoke-based extravaganza, The London Road Festival, returns this year with more arts and music activities while Appetite Stoke’s Big Feast has showcased world-class theatre across the city in recent years.
  2. Art. It’s everywhere! We’ve got perceptive street art from the likes of Doddz; regular celebrations of urban style at Upstairs Gallery; local artists on display at One One Six and more classical pieces at the PMAG. Art is taking shape as I type this with the resident artists at the newly opened ACAVA studios, art classes at Burslem School of Art and the incredible student artists studying at Staffordshire University. Perhaps most importantly, the community art scene is growing at breakneck speed. The hugely successful Portland Inn Project saw members of the community coming together to learn and create while Art Stop Stoke hosts regular crafting and art sessions.
  3. Independent Businesses. The Cultural Quarter in particular is now home to a mix of innovative independent businesses, each demonstrating their own creativity in different ways. Tsp, for example, have just opened their upstairs seating area along with their take on a traditional afternoon tea, except their “high tea” includes mini bagels and cupcakes with a scone on top. AMAZING. Rawr, on the other hand, give a whole new meaning to healthy eating with their delicious smoothies, juices and sandwiches and Klay Pizzeria and Bar encourage the best kind of creativity with their make your own pizza menu. Not forgetting new kid on the block, The Quarter, who continue to host a range of performances from local musicians, comedians and poets.
  4. Pottery. You can’t talk about Stoke’s culture without mentioning its pottery industry – we are built on clay for goodness sake! Plenty of folk are quick to condemn the pottery business as a dead duck, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Take Emma Bridgewater for example, her designs continue to grace the shelves of middle class families up and down the country and Steelite is supplying the hospitality industry all over the world. Moreover, smaller pottery businesses like Black Star Ceramics and Emma Bailey Ceramics are enjoying huge success too. Of course, our own Middleport Pottery is also home of The Great Pottery Thrown Down, which has just hit our screens for the second series.
  5. Individuality. Our city is the home of the mighty North Staffordshire Oatcake – surely that in itself is worthy of the 2021 title? The Stokie dialect is still alive and well, whether it’s “ay up Duck” or “nesh” or “look to rhyme with Luke” and our reputation as a generous community remains in tact – you only have to look at the city’s foodbank or the community night shelter project for evidence. Finally, we might be the only city who consistently turn over our crockery to see where it’s made. We are creative and caring and unique, and we deserve to be recognised as such by winning the 2021 City of Culture title.

Top Five: Things I really wanted to go to this summer but didn’t quite make it to…

Has anyone else spent the last 4 days saying “How is it already September???” or is it just me? I swear it was the start of July just a few days ago and I don’t even know where August went. At the end of June, I wrote an article detailing my top five plans for the summer in Stoke so I thought I’d finish the season with a different list of stuff that I really wanted to get to but somehow failed to do so. If you managed to get to any of these events, let me know what you thought!

  1. Potters Soup
    I first heard about Birmingham ‘Soup’ so I was thrilled to find out the idea had reached The Potteries. The idea is so simple which I think is what makes it so successful: you pay £5 on the door for soup, salad, bread & a vote. Everyone listens to a couple of different pitches by different people & organisations and you vote for the project you think will benefit the local community the most. The winning pitch then takes home the cash raised from the evening to plough straight into their project. IT’S GENIUS! I can’t believe I couldn’t be there to see it in action but I will be ready and waiting with my fiver next time. I might even give pitching a go…
  2. The Enchanted Chandelier
    This magical performance by Transe Express was Appetite Stoke‘s summer headline event. The floating chandelier filled Central Forest Park and while I’m sure the photos don’t even do it justice, the lights and acrobatics looked completely mesmerising. There were food and drink stalls available too which definitely makes it my kind of evening. 
  3. Deliveroo Launch Party @ The Exchange
    Stoke’s independent food scene is getting better and better by the minute, and the launch of Deliveroo in the city now means you can eat KLAY pizza at home in your onesie or a Portofino risotto with none of the effort. I only wish I’d been at the launch considering they were giving out free goody bags and I LOVE goody bags.
  4. Entrepreneurs Store 2nd Birthday
    I have become a major fan  of the entrepreneurs store, and their upstairs gallery even more so. The Famous When Dead exhibition was the first I went to see and the whole building has such a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. They celebrated their second birthday in style by the looks of it with a bbq, DJs and some limited edition second birthday merchandise. 
  5. ‘We are all at home’- Musicians Against Homelessness
    Musicians Against Homelessness is a nationwide campaign aiming to raise money for the national homelessness charity, Crisis. The ‘We are all at home’ gig was hosted at Pilgrim’s Pit in Stoke town and featured a variety of local artists as along with a Bottlecraft-run bar. What a fantastic way to both encourage local musicians and build support for such a worthwhile cause, and there are still a couple more gigs coming up in Stoke-on-Trent!

For more information:

POTTERS SOUP: https://www.facebook.com/potterssoup/ 

APPETITE STOKE: http://www.appetitestoke.co.uk/ 

DELIVEROO HANLEY: https://deliveroo.co.uk/

ENTREPRENEURS & UPSTAIRS GALLERY:  https://ntrprnrs.com/

MUSICIANS AGAINST HOMELESSNESS STOKE: http://rebel-culture.co.uk/national/2016/8/31/musicians-against-homelessness

Top 5: Latest Discoveries

As you may have gathered, I am currently in the middle of my university dissertation research and my focus is Stoke-on-Trent. Walking interviews are a key part of my methodology and I have therefore been exploring entirely unfamiliar areas of Stoke-on-Trent, as well as seeing places I know like the back of my hand with fresh eyes. Approximately 2 weeks into my data collection, here are my top 5 latest discoveries in The Potteries…

  1. Abacas Books, Milton.
    How I’ve managed to be back in Stoke-on-Trent for nearly 4 years and not visited this bookshop I do not know. Its collection of second-hand books is second to none and they cover just about every topic imaginable. Classics, Foreign travel, Biographies, Cars, Leather-binded copies, Local history, Modern Fiction; you name it, they’ve got it. However, the thing that makes Abacas a truly fantastic place for browsing has got to be the layout. What looks like 3 terraced houses side-by-side have been converted into the shop floor and yet all of the little nooks and crannies have been maintained, so cookery books can be found in a back room while literature classics are housed in what appears to be a cupboard once under the stairs. Finally, like all good second-hand bookshops , the prices are more than affordable so you don’t even need to feel bad when you leave with 10 new summer reads.

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    One of the cubby holes in Abacas Books!

  2. The (tsp.) cafe makeover, Hanley.
    As I was moving from one interview in Stoke town to another in Central Forest Park, I thought I’d pop in to (tsp.) and grab some lunch. (Having walked for an hour with the midday sun beating down I was in desperate need of a strawberry milkshake before I fainted) I walked into the shop to find a completely new arrangement: the window benches have been newly replaced and a swanky new counter runs along the left hand side of the floor, with updated menus sitting on top. Needless to say, (tsp.) 2.0 looks fantastic and the upstairs seating (which, rumour has it, will hopefully be finished by the end of the year) will bring even greater improvement.
  3. Our hidden canals.
    Some of my participants have taken me on walks along or past Stoke’s canals and what an eye-opener that has been. I’ve obviously explored the canal down in Norton Green, guarded by the Foaming Quart pub, but aside from that tiny stretch I’ve always thought the city’s canal network was quite grimy and industrial. Earlier today I explored the waterway as it runs past Milton which looked particularly glorious in such great weather and on Monday evening I found the canal in amongst Baddeley Green’s fields.The Trent & Mersey network has some truly beautiful walks and I hope it hasn’t taken everyone else in Stoke as long as me to enjoy them.

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    The Canal in Baddeley Green

  4. Stoke City’s Victoria ground.
    Everyone knows that Stoke City’s current home is Britannia Stadium and most will remember it’s previous home, the Victoria ground, with perhaps even fonder memories, but I didn’t quite grasp the impact that Stoke City’ s relocation had until I explored it earlier this week. Another participant accompanied me down Lonsdale Street and then Boothen Old Road, describing exactly how they remembered walking to a game. The sandwich shop; the ladies sat on their steps; the ever-growing throng of fans advancing to the stadium. The atmosphere was described so vividly that I could almost imagine it too and I therefore felt that same sense of profound sadness when we finally reached the once-inspirational motherland of Stoke football. I cannot believe that St Modwen have been able to leave the site to decay for the last 19 years, and the back end of Stoke town along with it. It’s evident that the Victoria ground was its lifeblood, surely it’s about time that some soul was pumped back in…
  5. There’s more to Stoke than meets the eye.

    Like most folk in Stoke-on-Trent, I thought I had the city pretty much pegged. I was confident I knew the most picturesque places to visit and the local history and the areas to be avoided, and yet only 2 weeks into my research I couldn’t have been more wrong. Cobridge (just the name of which makes most people wrinkle their nose!) was once a thriving, community-spirit-filled neighbourhood; nearly every town and suburb has a green space to call their own and the hump in the centre of Church Street, Stoke is entirely man-made as a result of building right on top of disused canals. If I, a born and semi-bred Stokie, can discover this much about my own city in a fortnight, then the rest of the UK have got a lot to learn about about us…

Top Five: Summer 2016 calendar

Admittedly, it doesn’t feel much like summer as I write this considering there is rain lashing down against my window and I’m wearing a jumper. Nevertheless, I’m sure we’ll soon see enough sun to be able to wheel our BBQs out for the final time this year, before returning them to the back of the garage and waving goodbye…

For the most part, I will be spending my summer in Stoke this year as I am required to carry out my dissertation research over the holiday period and this bizarre city is my topic of choice. It doesn’t sound quite so interesting when you compare it to the 6 weeks my housemate is currently enjoying in Mexico researching sea turtles, but each to their own eh?

I imagine when it comes to transcribing my interviews and analysing data, boredom will become my greatest friend and so as a preemptive measure, I’ve been investigating what the area has to offer in terms of events and activities over the next couple of months…it would appear we are spoilt for choice! Here are my top 5 things to do this summer:

  1. Stoke-on-Trent’s Big Dance Festival: This weekend will see Hanley alive with a huge dance extravaganza! With outdoor performances along the ever-more-quirky Piccadilly, an evening show at the Mitchell Arts Centre headlined by Company Chameleon and dance workshops at The Regent, it will be difficult NOT to get involved. More information at https://www.facebook.com/events/1214643235213535/

  2. Appetite’s Big Feast 2016: In case you are yet to encounter Appetite Stoke, they are an organisation seeking to get more people in Stoke interested in the arts, as research found Stoke-on-Trent to be one of the most ‘culturally-deprived’ areas of the UK. ‘The Big Feast 2016’ will undoubtedly be one of their programme’s highlights, bringing a vast array of predominantly free events right to the city centre. Across the August bank holiday weekend you can expect to find dance, theatre, music, comedy and even cabaret- there really is something to suit people of all ages and tastes. Take a look at their website for more details: http://www.appetitestoke.co.uk/

  3. Middleport Pottery’s Summer Programme: Ever since its regeneration efforts – led by the Princes’ Trust- Middleport Pottery has been going from strength to strength. Monthly craft fairs, clay courses and specific school holidays activities are all on offer throughout July and August and if this isn’t enough to tempt you over, they also have a cafe and a lovely canal-side location. Find out more at: http://www.middleportpottery.org/

  4. The ‘Costumes from Downton’ exhibition at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery:  Until the beginning of October, our very own PMAG will be home to a collection of costumes worn in series’ 1 & 2 of ITV’s Downton Abbey. For Downton-enthusiasts and fashionistas alike, this exhibition will provide an interesting afternoon of both re-living the series and appreciating the design work. For ticket info and opening times: http://www.stokemuseums.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/
  5. Back the bid for Stoke-on-Trent to become the 2021 UK City of Culture: Hull is the latest city to win this award for 2017 with Londonderry enjoying it before that in 2013. The title is awarded every 4 years and brings real benefits to the winning cities in terms of jobs, growth and quality of living. Various organisations across the city have began discussing Stoke’s bid and they need everyone to get behind it and bring their own ideas to the table. Head over to sot2021.com to pledge your support.

TOP FIVE: Breakfasts in the Potteries

Breakfast might just be my favourite meal of the day…(but then I say this about lunch and tea so perhaps I’m just a huge food fan all round?) and Stoke & its surrounding areas appear to have developed quite a range of tasty places to start the day. Here are 5 that I think are worth a try…

  1. Chiquito, The Hive

A Mexican breakfast might not be for everyone, but Rach & I are massive fans. There are various dishes on the menu but the Eggs Bravos is truly spectacular: poached eggs sit on top of guacamole and salsa-smothered sauteed potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce. They also serve a range of breakfast burritos as well as more traditional cooked breakfasts alongside coffees and smoothies. With a Student Chiquitos card, you can also receive 25% discount on your bill. ¡Hurra!

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Eggs Bravos & A Veggie Breakfast Burrito

2. (tsp.), Piccadilly

Yes I know I go on about how much I love this cafe, but they’ve got the lighter breakfast covered and most importantly of all, quality coffee. (tsp.) offer lots of pastries, bagels and crumpets- even their toast is absolutely delicious, which I believe is from Live Love Loaf Bakery in Leek. Sitting in the cafe, particularly on a sunny morning, is the perfect way to ease yourself into the day…

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(tsp.)’s trusty coffee

3. Melice, Intu Potteries

If pancakes and crepes are your cup of tea, then this is the place to come. They serve both savoury and sweet options – I can wholeheartedly recommend the nutella, banana & chantilly cream pancake. Melice also have a good range of drinks and with so many different French pastries in their cabinet, I challenge you to visit without taking a Strawberry Tart or a Mille Feuille home for lunch…

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The banana, nutella & chantilly cream pancake

4. High Lane Oatcakes / London Road Oatcakes / Any reputable oatcake shop

It saddens me to think that the rest of the country don’t get to begin their day with some delicious & freshly-made filled oatcakes. Considering I’m a vegetarian, cheese & mushroom are my personal favourite but I know cheese & bacon is another cracking combination. I couldn’t possibly begin to comment on the best place to get your oatcakes, for it is a debate that will continue until the end of time, but High Lane Oatcakes and London Road Oatcakes are always a safe bet.

5. Bailey’s Tea Room, High Street

The first entry from Newcastle comes in the form of Bailey’s Tea room. Their breakfast menu features everything you would expect to find in a British tearoom, from a full English to eggs any way and toasted teacakes. Bailey’s scrambled eggs & smoked salmon is one of my favourites but I can’t deny I’m also partial to a toasted teacake.


Chiquito: http://www.chiquito.co.uk/

(tsp.) : https://www.facebook.com/tspcoffee/?fref=ts & Live Love Loaf Bakery http://www.liveloveloaf.net/ 

Melice: http://www.melice.co.uk/

Bailey’s Tea Room: http://www.baileystearoom.com/index.html