In the News: An open letter to John Domokos, at The Guardian.

Mr Domokos has made a plea for residents of the city to get in touch and tell him about what matters to them, in attempt to rectify the somewhat skewed image of Stoke-on-Trent that was presented during the recent by-election in February. What challenges are we facing? What projects or ideas are really taking off? Who should he talk to and where should he film? So here is my two pence, for what it’s worth…

Dear John,

You’re not wrong. A huge swathe of Stoke-on-Trent did feel angry and misrepresented by the sudden influx of national reports written in response to our recent by-election, myself included.

Stoke-on-Trent is not a city in decline. We’ve done decline. We’ve done decimating deindustrialisation, a chronic lack of funding and laughable leadership, but that is SO five years ago. It’s behind us, and Stoke is very much on the up.

Piccadilly is undoubtedly the centre of Hanley’s cultural revolution. Tsp., Rawr and The Quarter have now firmly established a quality coffee shop culture; incredible food can be found at Klay Pizzeria and Piccadilly Brasserie and cultural activity is overflowing. Whether it’s the beautiful Regent Theatre, edgy Upstairs Gallery at the 51-53 Store or the wonderful Potteries Museum, ‘culture’ doesn’t stop.

Our ceramics heritage is being rediscovered both by locals and the rest of the nation alike, thanks in small part to the success of BBC2’s Great Pottery Throwdown, hosted by the newly refurbished Middleport Pottery. The Emma Bridgewater Factory is also more popular than ever, especially over a certain weekend in June when it hosts the Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival, Hot Air.

But the most important thing that the posse of journalists missed back in February is the overwhelming generosity of the city. I suppose this is unsurprising considering the focus of the coverage was the small minority of UKIP thugs who saw no problem in urinating on other people’s garden fences, but that’s an issue for another blog post… Stoke-on-Trent is a compassionate, giving city and this characteristic deserves to be recognised.

Having just finished organising and running the Stoke-on-Trent Churches Community Night Shelter over the past 4 months, which welcomed 82 different guests who were supported by over 100 volunteers, I know this to be true. The project was funded and resourced entirely by the people of this city. I’m talking every sleeping bag, every toothbrush, every home-cooked meal, it was all provided by Stoke-on-Trent. And how many organisations across the country can really attest to the same? No loans or grants from huge groups or celebrity donors, just everyday individuals working together and playing their part in order to care for those in need. Just people helping people, if you will.

So please don’t paint us as a bunch of ignorant and intolerant fools because it’s not, nor has it ever been true, and I’m sure you will reach this same conclusion when you come to explore the city in more depth. I would be more than happy to give you the real tour of Stoke-on-Trent, that which encompasses the new life and community spirit at work within the Potteries.

All the very best,

Carrie.

(ps. Make sure you try a Staffordshire Oatcake – they are not to be missed!)

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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: 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