Review: Looky Bag

Looky Bag is described by Nicola Winstanley & Sarah Nadin, its creators, as a seasonal bagazine (what a fabulous word!) focusing on Stoke-on-Trent’s exciting cultural scene. Imagine a magazine, only the adverts and contributions are neatly packed into a brown paper bag and rather than reviewing a play that’s only showing in London’s West End or Brighton’s latest coffee shop, everything featured is happening right here in our city.

I grabbed my copy when I popped into RAWR’s newly-opened cafe in Hanley, but Looky Bags are freely available in all sorts of establishments within the city centre, as well as Burslem, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Leek . I tipped the contents straight out onto the table and eagerly sifted through each feature.

A postcard of the Spode Works by local artist Frederick Phillips is heading straight for my bedroom wall and I thoroughly enjoyed Rob Amos’s ode to the North Staffordshire Oatcake. I encountered some familiar faces too with adverts for Appetite Stoke‘s Roundabout Festival (more to come on this later!) and a snippet from one of Rebel Culture‘s latest articles. However, perhaps best of all, I found a whole raft of exhibitions, performances and local businesses that I desperately need to explore. ‘Women’s Work’ at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery at the end of this month has been penciled into my diary; I must pop into Valentine’s Curious Closet the next time I’m in Stoke town and the story of Lidice & the North Staffordshire Miners has just been captured in the newly published ‘A Ray of Light.’

For me, 2016 seems to be the year in which Stoke-on-Trent has really found its feet. I thought I was beginning to keep track of the cultural goings on in our city but Looky Bag has shown me that I have so much left to discover, and I cannot wait. If you want to get exploring too, go pick up a copy!


The Autumn/Winter 2016 edition was sponsored by ‘Stoke-on-Trent for City of Culture 2021.’ Back the bid at

More information on ‘Looky Bag’:


Twitter: @lookybag


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:






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:


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

  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:

  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:

  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:
  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 to pledge your support.