REVIEW: Tristram Hunt at Hot Air 2016

Last Friday night, I made my way to the Emma Bridgewater Factory to hear Tristram Hunt speak at Stoke’s very own literary festival, Hot Air 2016. The factory itself was the perfect setting; the central courtyard had been accessorized with a gazebo-turned-box office and the factory shop was transformed into an author’s book-signing spot. All the while, the cafe continued to refresh each visitor and I even saw some glasses of wine which I’m certain aren’t usually on the menu- how posh!

20160610_195117

The Box Office

Hunt’s talk was held in The Meakin Room; a large whitewashed room with exposed beams and brickwork, albeit a little hot once the 200ish guests were all seated. Matthew Rice, Emma Bridgewater’s husband and author of one of my favourite books, “The Lost City of Stoke-on-Trent” introduced Tristram to the stage with a string of jokes about how he had finally been given the opportunity to host a talk, now there was no one else available…

The session was based on one of Hunt’s books, ‘Ten cities that made an empire’ and together we explored the role that cities as varied as Boston, Mumbai and Hong Kong played in the creation of the British empire. He began with the horrific slave trade triangle of Boston, Bridgetown & Dublin, and then continued on to the opium trade that criss-crossed between the cities of British India and Hong Kong.Both examples continue to reinforce the darker nature of British imperialism and its ruthless pursuit of power and influence. After a trip right across the globe, we finally arrived in Liverpool. Once a crucial part of the British empire, it found itself on the wrong side of the country when the empire collapsed and we looked to Europe. In a particularly bizarre turn of events, Hunt argues that the city now finds itself depending on primarily Chinese and Indian capital to fuel its regeneration effort- the very countries that Liverpool exploited in order to build its wealth!

The discussion was particularly poignant with regard to the EU referendum and the questions from the floor certainly reflected this. Nevertheless, Tristram argued that the original British empire model is not one that can or should be repeated and I fervently agree. The British empire was built on exploitation and destruction, the remains of which can still be seen today all over the globe, whereas the European Union offers hope for the future through open dialogue and problem solving between countries.

20160610_200237

Tristram Hunt’s ‘Ten cities that made an empire’

Overall, I am mightily proud and impressed with Hot Air 2016. It was fantastic to hear one of Stoke’s MPs discussing one of his own interests and the factory was a hive of activity. What’s more, the impact of the festival extended far beyond the factory walls with authors visiting local schools and colleges and festival fringe events taking place all over the city. Sometimes, it feels a real struggle to encourage city-wide engagement with anything other than football, but I’m confident that Stoke-on-Trent’s Literary Festival has captured the imagination of both residents and visitors from further afield.


For more information about Hot Air 2016:

https://www.facebook.com/SOTLiteraryFestival/ 

http://www.stokeliteraryfestival.org/

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