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78 pages

Clothes: Damselfly. Model: Molly.

Picture: David Adams.



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view STAFFAS as a PDF with double-page spreads

Cover + double pages 1. Open Adobe Acrobat Reader. In the top menus, select VIEW and PAGE DISPLAY. 2. Make sure that the option for a TWO PAGE VIEW is ticked. 3. Make sure the option to SHOW COVERPAGE IN TWO PAGE VIEW is ticked. That’s it!




CONTENTS Shaped in Stoke Page 6 Local food Page 18 New architecture Page 24 Home & garden Page 34 New fashion Page 40 Explore Page 52 New books Page 55 Gallery Page 61 Comic Strip Page 73 End point Page 76 Noisefloor Page 78

INTERVIEW: Behjat Omer Abdulla

EVENT: Leek & area bloggers meetup

Staffas interviews fine artist Behjat Omer Abdulla, as he prepares to curate the independent London Road art festival in Stoke town in June 2013. Behjat makes large scale portraiture in charcoal, based around themes of identity, surveillance and concepts of personhood within nation states.

Blogs may be deemed “boring” these days, at least by the twitterati with the trendy glasses. But thankfully no-one told all the fashion and glam bloggers from the beautiful Staffordshire Moorlands! They recently had their first meetup event in the town of Leek. Staffas has the photos!

Picture: Jo @ MintyEssence





Picture: Chetwoods

INTERVIEW: A film studio for Stoke-on-Trent?

PROJECT: The Potteries Tile Trail

With film and TV mini-series production studios at full capacity across the UK and Europe, Staffas heard from academic Jon Fairburn about the strong case to be made for investing in creating a local film studio in Stoke-on-Trent. Jon is Enterprise Reader in the Business School at Staffordshire University.

Experienced arts manager Danny Callaghan writes about his experiences setting up a pilot project in Stoke-onTrent, gathering a team of community researchers to examine the city’s huge and enduring legacy in the making and installing of beautiful ceramic tiles.


WELCOME TO THE PILOT PDF ISSUE of out the appeal a little. I’m currently thinking Staffas, a free personal ‘zine for the city of of publishing Staffas magazine twice a year, with the next issue toward Halloween 2013. Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire.

If you’re interested in being considered for For this first pilot issue, Staffas magazine draws publication, please send finished articles on the creativity and history of Stoke-on-Trent, (Word .doc) and/or pictures (.jpg) with full North Staffordshire, and a little bit beyond. As captions to the magazine’s email address: editor of Creative Stoke for the last decade, your editor is interested in local creativity, of which our region has enough to fill any number of magazines. But I’ve also brought a few personal interests to Staffas, such as gardens and history, to broaden Yours, David Haden.


PAGE 36 Picture: Chris Cyprus @ Barewall

HISTORY: H.G. Wells & The Potteries

INVESTIGATION: Digging into North Staffs allotments

Before he became famous the young H.G. Wells once lived in the Potteries. The father of science-fiction roamed the blasted slagheaps of Etruria, and was inspired by the vast ironworks there to create a macabre revenge story set in the industrial Potteries!

Staffas digs deep into the who, what, where, and “how much rent” of vegetable growing allotments in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire. How much does it really cost councils to run an allotments site? What are the wider costs and benefits of allotments?

KIDS: Summer fun with ancient traditions! Because, like, why wouldn’t you want to dance around with giant reindeer antlers on your head, or be Queen of The May for a day? Take your pick of dates to see ancient well-dressings, folk ritual performances, and other folk traditions. These ancient traditions still exist, and you can visit them locally this summer.

SURVEY: Local magazines The first big Staffas ‘local survey’ looks over all the locally made magazines, and shows them off over three pages. There’s a surprising amount being published from Stoke and North Staffordshire, and they’re all usefully laid out here. And now there’s Staffas too!

Picture: David Adams







signs, e d d e s a shape-b e-on-Trent. y r a r o p tok tem Five con atives based in S from cre

1. KIRSTY SHAW Light up your life with this innovative flower LED light from Stoke-on-Trent lighting maker & designer Kirsty Shaw. Kirsty’s innovative snowflake LED candle-light slowly changes colour, to provide a pleasing low-level sense of change to your home interior or event space, The light is battery operated, making it is usefully portable for events such as garden parties. Kirsty graduated from Staffordshire University, set up her company in 2008, and in 2013 has been able to go full-time with her business.


2. KHOROS : MUSIC MADE CHILD’S PLAY A big fun multi-sensory music maker instrument, which is super-robust enough to take all the rough handling that kids can throw at it! Available now!

3. STOKE-ON-TRENT TRANSFORMATION Designed by Stoke Council Landscape Team, this show-garden will compete in the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2013.

4. EMMA BRIDGEWATER : THE JUBILEE CROWN Still available, just like Her Madge. A perfect container for everything from your crown jewels to your doggie chocs.

5. CAMILA PRADA : SHAKING UP STAFFORDSHIRE Designed and made in Stoke, these ceramic salt & pepper shakers fuse the vinyl toy aesthetic with traditional Staffordshire slipware. Kirsty Shaw’s snowflake LED lamp is £25 at The Khoros is avaiable via - enquire about pricing and demonstration workshops. Stoke-on-Trent’s Transformation Garden, together with hundreds of ceramic flowers made in Stoke, will be on show at the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2013 - an entrance charge to the Show will apply. Emma Bridgewater’s Diamond Jubilee Litho Crown is available for £50 from Stoke-based Camila Prada’s shakers are available for £35 from



Behjat Omer Abdulla STAFFAS interviews artist Behjat Omer Abdulla, as he prepares to curate a key part of the independent London Road art festival in Stoke town in June 2013. Staffas: Behjat, welcome. Can we talk first about what led you to become an artist? Behjat: Becoming an artist was something that came to me gradually; actually I found it hard to call myself an artist. To sum up a long story, I emerged from my childhood memories and I found myself somewhere in the world as an artist. Staffas: Portraiture is very difficult and has also been also rather undervalued in the contemporary art world. Although that may be changing. In that context, what led you to choose portraiture as your main art practice? Behjat: I think being an artist is difficult in and of itself. And then... what you pick up — as a form or a concept — to say something, is another difficult step to take. But there’s guidance to be taken from history. Look back, say, at the first establishment of civilisation, you’ll see that human beings have had many ways of representing and reflecting their own nature and reality: from early marks in caves, to the colours of paintings - and now using

film and installation. Then one can also note that we live in an age where the human body has been at the forefront of artistic practice for centuries, and where it’s now commonplace for artists to make work that questions their own identity. It’s always fascinated me how contemporary artists approach their subject by using representative portraiture, to address their key issues. To me, art is a way to raise questions about what we are and how we place ourselves in the world. It is a way to be in touch with our responses to life. I am also trying to create something that looks vibrant. It is my way of speaking, and then it allows the viewers to translate, decode and ‘change’ it into their own languages. The art of making a portrait is not only about objects and representation, it exists during its creation - in memory, in description, through time and beyond time. There’s a quote I have here, from William Ewing... “...Although we think we see faces, objectively, in an identical way, faces are in fact fields of data that are interpreted and processed by the brain according to

Self portrait by Behjat Omer Addulla, displayed at the SHOP artists’s shop in Stoke town.



Behjat Omer Abdulla is a fine artist born in Kurdistan in a major city called Sulaymaniyah. His main work uses ID photography as a tool to develop large-scale charcoal drawings on paper. Behjat came to the UK in Nov 1999, and took a B.A. Fine Arts degree at Staffordshire University, where he received an award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Fine Art and passed with first-class honours. He has since worked in Stoke, London and Sweden, and will be the curator of the Open Air Gallery’s ‘Gallery Pictures’ at Stoke’s independent London Road festival in Summer 2013.

individual needs and experiences, and therefore seen and judged differently by people” (Ewing. About face: photography and the death of the portrait, Hayward Gallery, 2004). In terms of their production, portraits nearly always require the presence of a specific person and story. But the act of making portraiture is more than just referring to somebody’s external appearance. It is also more than just a documentation of someone in time and space. What interests me is not just a likeness but also the work of art that engages with idea of identity as they are perceived and represented in a space. Staffas: Who was your first sitter, and when? What does a typical portrait sitting look (and sound) like? Behjat: I can’t really remember exactly who was my first sitter, because I started to draw and paint quite early in my life. I think for me it started with the images and the cartoons characters I saw on TV.




“Mother and child” by Nemonee Stone, London Rd festival, Stoke, 2012 Photo: Behjat Omer.

Stoke town’s London Road ‘Open Air Gallery’ space is the long road itself, with the artworks placed all along it — on buildings, in the shop windows and pinned on business frontages. In 2013 Bahjat will curate the main ‘Gallery Pictures’ strand, alongside murals and installations delivered by others.

Digital collage, 2012, by Behjat Omer.

“In Limbo” installation of Behjat’s ID portraits, part of the Festival of Britain’s Avenue of Portraits (2011): Photo: Behjat Omer.


But I remember the many times when I’ve made a portrait of my Dad. Sometimes he would fall asleep while I was doing the drawing, nearby. Then he would be wake up in the morning and I would still be drawing. My face used to be covered with pencil powder and he would say: “Son, you haven’t been to sleep again!”. He would have breakfast and before leaving for work he would say: “Son, you have to sleep, otherwise I think one day you will go crazy”. Staffas: Do you see shifts in the wider cultural understanding of ‘the portrait’, between Kurdistan to the UK? In Sulaymaniyah portraiture always meant that I had a set of rules and constrictions to follow. The typical portrait, one made with no other reason than that of showing skill in producing a likeness of a person, and with no deeper concept, it bores me. It’s OK to work like that for a time, but then you have to add your own seeds to the work. But how I feel about it now is... that in order to make new work or to create something new you have to break those rules you have used in the past. One of our key lecturers was studying the human form and figure, in a very detailed and academic way. While we were making the portraits we would have to be aware of skulls, muscles, shadows and tone or darkness of the skin. We had classes that ran between five and six hours. Sometimes we would spend a few days working on just one face. Someone would get dressed up for the modelling, and sit in one position over that period of time, most of the time in the same room. The model would be surrounded by twenty to thirty students. The model would be lit up by a spotlight, and you would choose a place around to

do your portrait. All this was going on during a civil war. Staffas: Over that sort of period you must become very aware of the surface before you, as well as the subject. What are the special qualities of graphite as a medium? What kind of surfaces do you love? Behjat: I use graphite powder and pencil in my drawings. I believe graphite is a very unique medium: the more you use the more you can discover. It is a language that I have only discovered about a year ago. I make my own brush and tools to use the powder. It’s an extremely fine powder, and sometimes it’s hard to handle. It’s a medium which you can easily create a mess with, and yet at the same time you can have full control over it. What I really like about it is the effects that I get in the end. It looks like a painting and drawing at the same time. It’s like a drawing that has been made with brush. I like the paradox crossover of the two mediums between drawing and painting. You can see the anger and stillness in it, all at once. Staffas: How do you manage the conventional expectations that people have of ‘what their portrait is going to look like’? Behjat: For my drawing project entitled “In Limbo” I asked a number of asylum seekers, who have been living in the UK for a number of years, to let me use their ID pictures (or to let me photograph their ID pictures). The idea of this project comes from my final degree show at Staffordshire University. The participants of my series “In Limbo” had no ideas of what the final outcome is going to be like. The only thing they

are aware of is that they are making an ID picture. I had commissioners saying, “I have never experienced my appearance this way”, and “I think that if I had to describe my response to seeing my portrait, it was that of complete and immediate acceptance of what the image showed as the truth and a recognition that this was indeed my image as would be seen by others”. “In Limbo” was from around 2009 to 2011, when I choose large portraiture for some of my works because I was particularly interested in ID photos. Staffas: Ah, that would be related to Labour’s failed £5 billion national ID card scheme? Something now scrapped and forgotten, thankfully. And all the data from it is said to have been publicly destroyed by the new government. How did your graduation work tackle this scheme? Behjat: My work directly developed from the ideas of the origin and falsification of the “ID card”, as explored in my studio practice. It’s shocking to see how codes and numbers classified and shaped us, under a system that was almost invisible to us. The work tries to question the effects and the outcomes of this categorisation, in the systems we live within. My main working ideas, on the theme of identity, have been developing and growing for more than ten years — ever since I was involved in some nonsense battles over being recognised by the system in the UK. Most of the times the idea and the concept I have will make me decide what form or materials to choose for the work.

“The participants of my series ‘In Limbo’ had no ideas of what the final outcome is going to be like. The only thing they are aware of is that they are making an ID picture.”




Usually it’s more than one material. For example, in the work “In Limbo” I used portraits — but I also used sound, which the viewer could experience while they were in the graduation show space. Portraiture in my work is not only about faces, it is about someone’s situation in society. I show people’s faces to encourage discussion, or at least awareness of a problem, in our society. For instance Hajy Khalil was one of the guys I drew for the “In Limbo” project. He was assassinated by a gunman on 12th February 2013 in Baghdad, on his way back home. He had to return there after having his asylum application rejected by the UK Home Office. So he went to Sweden, but then he was deported from there to Iraq. I feel this this is another truly cruel act of Home Office. I just hope that they can learn a lesson from it. Staffas: That’s terrible. Could you say a little more about the practicalities of undertaking that work, in such difficult — and even life-and-death — circumstances? Behjat: Well, I started with people I knew, within and outside of the UK. For the project, the chosen participants were asked to perform as if sitting for an ID photo — for a document that may determine the course of their life, and result in the realisation of their hopes for the future. I took a number of photographs. I chose the photograph I thought best captured the person’s core, framing their true identity. It’s unusual that we expect photographs to be a clear mirror of who we are, when they only represent a superficial facet of our identity. For me, the moment captured within the photograph encapsulated an impression of the subject being absent from their own life, absent from misfortune, raised up from the misery and anger caused by their destiny being held in the hands of a disengaged authority. Each image was cropped like an ID photo and drawn in monochrome. So, in fact, those drawings were of photographs rather than of the subjects themselves, mimicking the format of an ID picture as well as reinforcing a uniformity of appearance.

Staffas: Do you have a favourite portrait, from your own work so far? And where would you like to see it hanging? Behjat: I think that would be one from the “In Limbo” project. This body of work consisted of about eleven drawings including a self-portrait. They mean a lot to me, because in some ways we are giving out one message and we share the same story. I am working on showing them in a police station. Staffas: That should be interesting! Who do you think is currently making memorable and insightful contemporary portraiture, today? Behjat: There are many artists whose work I admire. For example: Dawn Mellor’s celebrity portraits. the “Queen and Country” project by Steve McQueen reflected on the war in Iraq, based on portraits of the soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq. That was very inspiring work. I also particularly love the mixed-media work of Gottfried Helnwein, a highly skilled painter. He uses photography as a main foundation for his work: questioning the way history has blotted our everyday life and our memory. I think he has many powerful, and to some extent shocking, works. For example the “The Disasters of War”, and the portrait of his son — 20 foot high and 14 foot wide — entitled “Kindskopf”. Staffas: Yes, I know his work, that’s a very fine influence to have. Before we go, can I just say how much I’m enjoying your series of rapid digital tablet drawings that you’ve started making and posting online in 2013. As someone who enjoys ‘the fantastic’ and ‘the macabre’ in art , there’s a lot there to enjoy. I recommend that people seek out your Tumblr Web page to see them. Behjat, thank you.

Since his graduation Behjat has exhibited his works at Stoke’s AirSpace Gallery; the Birmingham European Theatre Festival; the Hayward Gallery’s ‘Avenue of Portraits’ in London; the Platforma Festival in London; and overseas in places such as Norway, Australia, Germany and Portugal. He was granted British Citizenship in 2010, and plans to take a Masters degree in Sweden in 2014. For the 2012 Staffordshire University Fringe Festival, Behjat co-ordinated and curated the special “Unilateral” visual arts programme, for which he re-opened The Exchange artists’s shop in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. There he put on a special art show, to augment the final Degree Shows happening down the hill at Staffordshire University. In Summer 2012 Behjat curated the huge gallery at the Open Air Gallery along the London Road in Stoke town, with the fundraising support of B Arts and the project management support of Marg Hardcastle of SWOCA. The independent London Road Festival is organised by SWOCA, the residents’s community association for Boothen, West End and Oakhill in Stoke town. The 2013 theme is “Journeys”. The festival has its main days on 8th and 9th June 2013, but there will be other events happening around these days.


Behjat Omer, “The skin I carry” (portrait of his father, 2011). Picture: Behjat Omer.

“Hajy Khalil” part of the Sraffordshire University graduation show “In limbo” installation (2010). Picture: Behjat Omer. Hajy Khalil was later assassinated in Baghdad after he was refused asylum and deported.

Behjat Omer, “Woman and Her Bit of Paradise III”(2012). Inspired by his father’s old photographic negatives.




Behjat Omer, “Woman and Her Bit of Paradise II”(2011). Inspired by his father’s old photographic negatives.


 Behjat Omer, “The Potato Eaterâ€?(2010). Inspired by a picture of the Labour politician Tony Blair posing eating fish & chips,  and by Van Gogh’s “The Potato Eatersâ€? (1885).






! T U O SP

The first networking event for Leek & area blog writers got off to a fine start in early 2013


Meetup organised by Maxine of

SPOUT coffee shop was the venue for the first Leek & area bloggers meetup event in early 2013. Spout was opened by stylist Libbi Kirkby at Xmas 2012. Spout also includes the “Passion Pit” pampering parlour, art gallery space, and a display of designer clothes by Jessica Shaw. The shop has so far created four new jobs in the town. The perfect venue for local fashion and beauty bloggers! Main staircase picture is by Maxine at “A Girl I Know” This page, top picture: by Jo at “MintyEssence” This page, lower pictures: by Stoke-on-Trent blogger Terri Lowe at “Hello Terri Lowe”



8 Top Ways to Eat Staffordshire Oatcakes! 1: Simple Butter

2: Eggs & Bacon

3: Spicy Turkey!

Oatcake Medallions + Watercress, Pumpkin Spread, Cream Cheese...

4: Salad

... bring your own rabbit.

5: Choc Spread

6: Baby Mallows

7: Bananas & Syrup

8: Spicy Pickle & Cheese RIGHT: STAFFORDSHIRE PICKLE from Mikes Homemade of Stafford. Handmade with local sourced (where possible) chunky tomatoes, apples, courgettes, onions & sultanas infused with spices. 280g. Credits. Background, oatcake graffiti seen in Stoke by Qumiby. Left, from top: Real Bread; Dexter Mixwith; Deadman Jones; Ade 46. Right, from top: StaffsLive; StaffsLive; Mikes Homemade.




Royal Doulton ABOVE: The Royal Doulton Factory in Burslem, closed in 2005. Developer St. Modwen is exploring possible uses.

Spode Works BELOW: A former ceramics factory in Stoke town, near the current Civic Centre and the A500 dual carriageway.

studio “LOOK KIDS...


o time! there’s an old abandoned mansion up there on the hill — let’s put on the show in there!” THUS RUNS one of the famous lines from many an old American movie, exemplifying the desire of creative talent to find large production spaces at low cost. The kids make good, put on the show, and wow the town’s crusty skeptics. With the government’s £1 billion City Deal looming for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffs, could this be the moment the city gets its film studio and wows the skeptics? STAFFAS heard from Jon Fairburn about the strong case to be made for investing in creating a local film studio. Possibly on a hill. Jon is Enterprise Reader in the Business School at Staffordshire University. DH: Jon, if we could first establish some of the background. The post-industrial exemplar city with a film studio seems to be Belfast. They had huge abandoned shipbuilding yards, with enormous empty spaces. But Belfast had the imagination and drive to see these spaces as film production stages. Their studio facilities have attracted the leading American mini-series Game of Thrones to base much of their production there. The surrounding countryside also benefitted, being used for location shoots. Last November Belfast opened a new £8.5m expansion of their film stages. Although filmmaking below a certain budget level no longer guarantees profits and is increasingly risky, the boom in cinema-quality TV mini-series is said to be very profitable for studios. All around the world rising middle-classes are demanding high-quality mini-series, and these increasingly require proper film studios to film in. Jon Fairburn: I don’t think it is just mini-series TV, but also feature films. UK film studios are at full capacity, so the opportunity is there. DH: There’s also said to be very little spare studio capacity in Europe at present. How can North Staffordshire best tap into this historic opportunity, and do so in a timely manner?

Jon Fairburn: We have the most important assets land, buildings and people. Plenty of cheap, vacant land and buildings standing empty and unused. Many of these sites are very large and so ideal for film stages. There seem to be at least three main possibilities. There’s the Royal Doulton site on Nile Street, Burslem, that’s one obvious contender for a studio complex. DH: Yes, that would be new-build? St. Modwen may have their own ideas for that, but I’m sure someone as approachable as Mike Herbert would be willing to listen to a serious business proposal on that. Such a location could benefit the media campus of Burslem College which is on the doorstep, spaces such as the Queen’s Theatre, and then there’s the creative industries — from potteries to artists to radio and screen media — which are proving central to Burslem’s regeneration. Crews would have easy access to the atmospheric countryside in the Peak District National Park and the Moorlands, and plenty of Victorian heritage and canal sides in the city, for nearby location shoots. There ‘s cosy accomodation such as the George Hotel and other accomodation, for putting lesser stars and crew in an affordable local hotel.




Jon Fairburn: Yes, the Doulton site would have to be new build, and we also need to upgrade some of the hospitality and hotel offer in this area. And don’t forget that there are quite a few large empty buildings in Burslem — so there would actually be the potential for a wider local cluster there, and as you say this would tie in more broadly with the creative industries cluster that is developing in Burslem. There’s also the G.Park Blue Planet at Chatterley Valley. This is an empty distribution centre of 383,036 square feet. It would be an ideal building for a film studio due to uninterrupted internal construction of the building. DH: That’s a nice possibility. I suspect that would probably be the most promising, in terms of the lower costs of converting a new-build site. There is excellent parking and access for big trucks. You’d need good sound insulation, since the West Coast Main Line railway line passes not far away. But I guess all sound stages are very well insulated in that regard. With European studio space apparently becoming scarce, it would be interesting to try it out a couple of years there, and see what we can

attract. Any other likely locations? Jon Fairburn: The disused Spode ceramics factory site in Stoke town, near the university, would be another obvious possibility for a film studio. This is currently a vacant 10 hectare site within easy walking distance of Staffordshire University. Being a major arts and media campus, the University has lots of talent available on the doorstep. DH: Yes, I’m told that that’s one of the most important factors in a studio’s success. You have to have not just the space, but also local crew and talent, to save backers the costs of putting them up in hotels. Jon Fairburn: Staffordshire University has one of the largest numbers of film, TV broadcasting, special effects, animation and creative industries degree courses and postgraduate courses in the UK. The University also has its own technical facilities such as TV and recording studios. The M.Sc. Film Technology has international connections, most recently with Filmbase Ireland

who are partners with Staffordshire University. The course in Dublin is used to stimulate film production practice in Ireland, and a feature film is produced in Dublin as part of the award. We have the potential to replicate this model in Stoke, through a external cost centre model. On the Stoke campus there is Media (Film) Production, FTVRS, Radio Production, Music Broadcasting, Media Studies, Scriptwriting and Drama have 557 students. Media (Film) production at Stoke has another 150 approximately over three years. DH: There’s also the new Cartoon and Comic Arts degree course which — once established and producing graduates — might come to feed into storyboarding and pre-visualisation startups locally. And the city generally has raised its creative game enormously since the early 2000s, with film now leading the way and being championed by the Council’s Film Office, by the annual Stoke Your Fires film festival, and by the major productions that get made here by local talent on what’s becoming a regular basis. Jon Fairburn: It’s not just about Stoke-on-Trent either. On the

nearby Stafford campus the film and special effects awards have 430 students across the three years. Stafford also has the Videogames Design degree courses, which are already spinning off small local games development houses. There are excellent regular inter-city rail connections between Stafford and Stoke. DH: And I’m sure videogames talent will become more important to film, as the capabilities of real-time videogame engines are developed for real-time filmmaking. I can imagine serious indie film productions starting to use the affordable Kinect-based real-time motion capture, combined with the emerging forms of markerless facial motion-capture. Jon Fairburn: And we have serious local audio talent as well. Such as in BBC Radio Stoke, Signal Radio and 6 Towns Radio. There are a couple of world-class radio jingle and voiceover artists working locally. Then there’s the cohort of SMEs that can be awarded regional contracts from terrestrial broadcasters. Several of these businesses - such as Reels in Motion, ST16,


“This is an empty distribution centre of 383,036 square feet. It would be an ideal building for a film studio due to uninterrupted internal FAIRBURN construction of the building.” JON STAFFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY

Humanoid, and Grand Independent to name a few - have formed due to university policies that support entrepreneurship and business development. We are also very lucky to have Tim Beasley at Blythe Bridge who runs UK Film Location for sourcing locations and providing services whilst filming. DH: And I understand that the City Council’s Film Office is launching a major website for a film locations directory, at the end of March 2013. Then there’s the thorny question of the potential overspill from the Manchester creative industries. A February 2012 report from Oxford Economics forecast 22,000 new jobs in the creative and cultural industries in Manchester by 2022, that’s on top of the jobs imported to the city by the major BBC move to Manchester. Such creative industries jobs forecasts need to be taken with a big pinch of salt. But I do wonder if creative Mancunians might be made more aware of what a talented and wellconnected city they have nearby in Stoke-on-Trent. A film studio at somewhere like Blue Planet could make them sit up and notice the city, if it started to attract paying customers.

Jon Fairburn: I am a bit more sceptical as to the Manchester effect. Great things were talked about under regeneration plans in the last decade, as to how we would attract commuters to Manchester due to our cheap house prices and it never really happened. There is the possible danger that Manchester could just leech our existing talent away. Having said that if we set up a studio here, we may exert our own pull on talent. DH: The funding context for a film studio is obviously tight. We’re not yet out of the recession, even though the West Midlands is much more positive on many indicators than other parts of the UK. But I’d hope that a business case for a studio at Blue Planet for a number of years might be explored. It’s also interesting to note that the £1bn City Deal money has been used for creative industries purposes elsewhere in the Midlands. In Nottingham in particular, which I understand already has its City Deal. Which suggests the while the focus is manufacturing and innovation, other options may be available.

Jon Fairburn: Don’t forget that our area is one of the few places in the the UK that will be eligible for higher levels of intervention from EU funds and grants under Transition Area Status — that’s under the new regime from 2013 onwards. There are some interesting proposed changes to EU funding for the 2014-2020 funding round. The proposal is that there will be a far greater streamlining of administration, greater involvement of SMEs and far more projects that are closer to market within what they name the CULTURE and MEDIA funding streams.

Blue Planet This is a 52-acre landscaped site designed by Chetwoods. It is near Tunstall, Stoke-on- Trent, and has close M6 access. Picture: Chetwoods.

DH: That sounds very promising. Jon Fairburn, thank you.

Interior of BLUE PLANET. Photo by Jon Fairburn.






Westport Lakes Visitor & Field Study Centre, Stoke-on-Trent. Walker Simpson architects, Manchester. British Waterways: ÂŁ1.3m.


Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, Stoke-on-Trent. Broadway Malyan architects, Birmingham. UK Learning & Skills Council: ÂŁ23m.




DID YOU KNOW? Stoke-on-Trent’s population is growing! “The number of people living in the city increased by 3.6 per cent from 240,643 in 2001 to 249,000 in 2011, according to data from last year’s nationwide census.” — reported in The Sentinel, 17th July 2012. The 2011 Census data also shows that over the last decade the city has boosted the number of university degree holders living here from 9.9 per cent to 15.5 per cent of the population.

Lock 38 residential apartments at Cliffe Vale, Stoke-on-Trent. Design closely advised on by Urban Vision of Burslem. Countryside Properties: £commercial.


Stoke-on-Trent F.E. College, Lifestyle Building (childcare, health, beauty, and catering courses). Moss Construction (Kier). UK Learning & Skills Council: ÂŁ11m.





Staffordshire Uni Science Centre, Stoke-on-Trent. Sheppard Robson architects, London. Staffordshire Uni, HEFC, local colleges: £30m.

Picture: Rictor Norton & David Allen

Wedgwood Museum, Barlaston. Hulme Upright Manning architects, Stoke-on-Trent. Heritage Lottery Fund: £10m.

Pictures: Armour Systems

Wedgwood Museum interiors: Ivor Heal, with museum display cases by Armour Systems.





Project funded by: Heritage Lottery Fund

TILE TRAIL Danny Callaghan explains the new Potteries Tile Trail that is being devised by a team of community researchers in Stoke-on-Trent, working in partnership with the national Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society. HOW CAN local people be encouraged to value their architectural histories? A number of academic and heritage projects are now working on this question. A key pilot project is The Potteries Tile Trail in Stoke-on-Trent. The Tile Trail idea started when Lynn Pearson proposed having local people involved in tile research activities, helping to produce content for new websites and books, and new local trail guides. Inspired by Lynn, the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society (TACS) gained a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) via the national “All Our Stories” initiative. The aim at TACS was to pilot

Lynn’s ideas of having communities local communities add to and be involved in developing the new Tile Gazetteer: A Guide to British Tile and Architectural Ceramics Locations book and the TACS National Database of Architectural Ceramic Locations at The best pilot area for this was, of course, the city of Stoke-on-Trent, A place where fine inlaid tile making dates back to the monks of 12th century, and where Roman kilns have even been found. The Potteries Tile Trail project is also benefiting from partnerships with academics. In particular with the ‘How

should decisions about heritage be made?’ strand of the Arts & Humanities Research Council’s “Connected Communities” co-design project. The Potteries Tile Trail began in Stoke-on-Trent with a publicity campaign which reached the main Stoke & North Staffordshire newspaper The Sentinel’s Saturday magazine and main news pages; BBC Online’s World News pages; The Big Issue North magazine which ran a cover and article; and Creative Stoke, the local creative-industries Web hub. This initial publicity was used to recruit local people for a ‘community research team’. We had a great response, and


Just some of the fine tiles that need to be cheshished in the Potteries!

OUR TILES GO BEYOND THE POTTERIES The intricate roof of the Bethesda Terrace arcade (launched 1869) in Central Park, New York used 16,000 patterned encaustic tiles made by Minton in Stoke-on-Trent. Tunstall-based firm H&R Johnsons & Buslem-based Maw & Co were involved in the successful restoration of the tiles completed in 2007. Pugin’s neo-gothic Palace of Westminster in London, home to the British Parliament, has acres of tiles from Herbert Minton in Stoke-on-Trent. Ironbridge & Burslem-based Craven Dunnill Jackfield is now helping replace worn tiles.


Photographs by TSmyther and Peter Broster.

lots of people volunteered for the four ‘study visit’ days. A project website, and a dedicated ‘Historypin’ channel, were launched in February 2013. Please have a look at these, if you haven’t already. We would welcome your comments, photographs, information, and memories. Please also tell overseas relatives and friends about the project, as they may have connections to the making of Potteries tiles. They may even have our tiles in their home town! Because tiles from The Potteries went all around the world. Did you know that there are nearly 16,000 Minton tiles from Stoke right in the middle of Central Park, New York? It’s true! There are pieces of Stoke’s history hidden in great buildings all around the world, some of which are 200 years old. The community research team met for the first time in late February 2013 for the first ‘study visit’ day. It was fascinating to find out the diverse backgrounds and interests of those assembled. The team included: a former managing director of Wooliscrofts Tiles; an education professional and a Minton Tile hallway owner; a senior industrial chemist for H&R Johnsons with 50 years of industry experience; a creative communities consultant working in health & regeneration; a young local networker and organiser who is also a photographer; and a well-known locally based filmmaker & moving-image archivist. There have been four study trips, each with unique and tailored activities. Activities were aimed at exploring the

Colin Minton Campbell (1827-1885), his statue (1887) outside Sainsbury's in Stoke town. The grandson of Thomas Minton, he took control of the Minton factories in 1858. In 1868 the tile business was split — with partner Michael Hollins taking the bespoke hand-painted tile business, and Colin Minton Campbell the mass production of decorative building tiles under the names Minton & Co. and later the Campbell Brick & Tile Co.




Top: Chapel of St. Mary’s Undercroft, with Minton f loor. Picture: UK Parliament. Middle: York Minster Minton tiles in the Chapter House. Picture: Dominus Vobiscum. Bottom: Minton at St. Martin’s Church, Bull RIng, Birmingham . Picture: Scrappy Annie. Overleaf: Eucharistic Minton tiles in St. Giles at Cheadle (Pugin). Picture: Lawrence O.P.

stories behind the tiles and architectural ceramics industry in Stoke-on-Trent, and its geographic and historic context. Two study days in Stoke saw bespoke visits to: the Gladstone Pottery Museum Tile Gallery (Longton, Stoke-on-Trent); Holy Trinity at Hartshill (between Stoke town and Newcastle-under-Lyme); The Wedgwood Institute (the former public library in Burslem, Stoke-onTrent); and the Johnson Tiles’ works and headquarters (Tunstall, Stoke-onTrent). The team was also treated to an exclusive screening of rare tile-industry footage, courtesy of the Staffordshire Film Archive. The team has also been encouraged to ‘re-view’ Stoke-on-Trent through further mini tours. These took them to some of the many forgotten and hidden ‘in situ’ architectural ceramic gems and important historic locations across the city. You can see pictures of what they found, via the project’s Historypin channel. The third research day took the team to Jackfield, Ironbridge, in nearby Shropshire. Another series of tailored activities enabled the volunteers to grasp the wider regional and national context for the production of tiles in Stoke-on-Trent. We saw the Jackfield Tile Museum, a tube-lined tile making workshop, and had a wonderful bespoke tour of Craven Dunnill Jackfield’s production facility led by Chris Cox — arguably now the world’s leading encaustic tile maker. For the final research day we went on a study visit to London. It began with a tour of some of the V&A Museum’s superb integral architectural ceramic gems — made in The Potteries. These included the Refreshment Rooms, and the Minton Staircase. The team also spent time in the wonderful Ceramic Galleries exploring historic architectural ceramics and tiles. We also hunted down Stoke-on-Trent architectural ceramics in London, including: Wooliscroft’s Russell Square Underground Station; Minton’s Napoleon III’s commemorative blue plaque at St James’s; and of course our Parliament building. The Palace of Westminster offered a unique opportunity to explore explore the extensive Minton-Pugin tile pavements which run throughout

the neo-gothic building, the tiles being commissioned with the help of the famous architect Augustus Pugin. Tristram Hunt M.P. (Lab, Stoke Central) welcomed the volunteers in St. Stephen’s Hall. We were then taken on a bespoke tour of some of the greatest displays of Minton tiles in the world, including rare access to the exquisite Chapel of St. Mary’s Undercroft. Tile firm Craven Dunnill Jackfield, of the Potteries and Ironbridge, are currently helping to restore the Palace of Westminster floors — worn down over the years by the footsteps of Prime Ministers and famous MPs. But the pattern of the tiles still shows through, because it’s like a stick of seaside rock candy-cane, with the pattern embedded deep all the way through. In May and June 2013 The Potteries Tile Trail project will move into its second phase. Following an evening of tile archive footage, the research team will share their findings with the public, through a series of community sharing events in each of the city’s six towns: Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton. A small ‘popup’ display of photographs, film and other documentation will present the research group ‘findings’ in busy public spaces in each area. Community team volunteers will encourage people to add to the stories and to share their own knowledge and memories. The community research and crowdsourced contributions will form the basis for a series of self-guided walks and related online resources. These resources will encourage people to explore for themselves the amazing story of Stoke-on-Trent’s historic and present day tile and architectural ceramic industry. A finale event will highlight these resources and celebrate the formal launch of The Potteries Tile Trail.

For more information about the project... email Danny Callaghan at: Visit the main website at:


The Potteries Tile Trail is part of a special tile industry themed film night, thanks to the Staffordshire Film Archive.

7.45pm on Wednesday 8th May 2013, at the Stoke Film Theatre (Stoke-on-Trent’s dedicated art-house cinema).

Visit the Film Archive events listings page:








IT SEEMS A PITY that many of the old terrace houses of Stoke-on-Trent, and also of the neighbouring towns, have been uglified with cheap and nasty modern doors. But there are still a few of the old doors to be seen, usually one or two in each street. If in good upkeep, they can change the whole look and feel of the house. Changing a modern or wornout front door for a big heavy vintage


wooden one is no mean feat — I’ve wrestled with fitting one myself in the past. But if you have the house and the funds, why not visit one or two of the better local architectural salvage yards, with your exact measurements in hand, and then employ a local tradesman to fit and repaint the new door for you? For a total outlay of less than £400 you could add much more to the resale value of your


house, have a stronger front door with a better lock and hinges, and also improve the tone of your street into the bargain! Then, for added vintage glam, add a nice metal front gate painted with some matching Hammerite, Perhaps also an a hanging basket containing some trailing summer plants like a white fushia?




‘CHEERY 1960s’

‘1940s MONO’






DIGGING INTO ALLOTMENTS Stoke-on-Trent City Council reports knowing of 76 allotment sites across the city, and these sites contain about 3,500 individual or half plots (some of which will be fallow, for various reasons). At April 2013 about 54 of these sites are Council-run, and 22 are self-managed by autonomous committees. In 2009 the Council stated a total figure of 1,350 Council plot tenants. According to the MyTunstall hyperlocal news website, vegetable allotments cover a whopping 185 acres of Stoke-on-Trent, and the City Council is said to be the third largest city provider of allotments in the UK. At April 2013 The Sentinel reported a figure of “approximately 200 acres” of allotments in the city. The average annual plot rent on a City Council -administered site is commonly said to be around £45 a year at the end of 2012. A comparable place like Barrow-in-Furness is currently reported to be in the process of jacking the annual rent up to £80, in a bid to make profits from their allotments. Six disused allotment sites were re-opened by Stoke City Council in 2009/10, to cope with the demand in the recession — which had caused the waiting list in the city to rise to 300. Despite these new sites, at 25th August 2011 the waiting-list across the whole city was reportedly still high at 248 (this figure apparently excludes the 20 or so user-managed sites in the city). The City Council stated in the press at the end of summer 2011 they had no plans to open new allotments in the city, or to reclaim those that have become totally overgrown and disused (such as at Rogerson’s Meadow at the north end of Grange Park, Middleport). This was despite the continuing demand, as judged by the waiting list remaining high, and despite any Council’s statutory duty to provide plots to those requesting them. According to a Freedom of Information request response freely available online, most people on the official waiting list in Stoke-on-Trent wait for somewhere under a year before getting

a plot on a Council-run site, although on some very popular allotments there can be a wait of three years or more. There’s a possibility that some popular sites have closed their waiting-lists,since it seems the Council permits this — some years ago The Sentinel newspaper reported (18th Aug 2008) that... “Some oversubscribed allotments in the city are closing waiting lists”. In 2009 The Sentinel reported that the City Council was looking at selling off about six allotment sites, which had presumably become disused due to neglect. Allotments had generally been run-down under Council management in the 2000s — in 2009 the Council’s own Executive accepted a scrutiny panel -commissioned report which concluded that all the City Council’s... “allotments had suffered over recent years from a lack of proper management” (report quoted in The Sentinel newspaper, 5th Jan 2009). There appears to have been a national trend in the 1990s and 2000s to allow allotments to become run down and to be sold off. Nationally, allotment provision appears to have slumped under the Labour government. For instance, a 2006 academic report on allotments was commissioned by the Labour government from the University of Derby — although this damning report was then buried by Labour until 2011, when it was unearthed by the current government. The report found local Councils had together sold off around 50,000 individual plots to developers, and that allotment sites had fallen nationally by... “nearly 800 between 1996 and 2006.” I have not been able to discover how many local North Staffordshire sites may have been sold to developers over the past 15 years, if any. A 1988 study found that just 1.1% of Stoke-on-Trent’s allotment holders were under 25, with 88.3% being over 40.


Typical Potteries allotment sheds. Architects: Out Of A Skip, back of Beyond. Cost: swop yer for yer rhubarb?

The gender balance was then 92% male, 8% female. 49% of plot holders were either unemployed or retired. Plot holders rarely lived more than a mile from the plot they held. For more details see: George Kay’s “Allotment Gardens in Stoke-on-Trent” (1988), in issue 11 of Staffordshire University’s academic journal Occasional Papers in Geography. This gender balance has undoubtably shifted over two decades since 1988, as has the age balance, as more ‘ecoworriers’ have taken plots on allotments. The abutting town of Newcastle-under-Lyme (geographically a seamless part of the city-region, although technically not part of Stoke and heartily shunning any association) has just seven allotment sites and 254 plots, according to a report in The Sentinel of November 2011. Reflecting the relatively affluent nature of the town, rents there are reported to be £53.10 a year. At November 2011 the press reported a huge waiting list there of 295, more than the entire available number of plots. Despite this obvious need, the Council was reportedly seeking to work out how their allotment costs... “can be reduced significantly or fully recovered” (The Sentinel, 29th Nov 2011) and there appear to be no signs of new provision being planned. Newcastle’s councillors give the impression that they view allotments as cost-sinks, rather than as invaluable community assets. Given the running-cost figures I give at the end of this article, this seems an odd stance to take. Possibly the councillors are not in full possession of the financial details. At least allotmenteers can be thankful that the waiting list in Newcastle-under-Lyme still appears to be open, at a time when many councils in the UK are simply closing their waiting lists due to the weight of demand, and in order to avoid negative publicity. Further allotments in Stoke city-region are provided by lesser Councils in places such as Kidsgrove (said to be £32 a year), and the Lyme Valley. Allotments sites in the Staffordshire Moorlands (not including Leek) are private, and are not controlled by the Council — although they do manage Church Rd. Community Gardens which provides therapeutic gardening for the NHS and local children’s centres. Leek Town Council is said to control seven allotment sites,

with an annual plot rent of just £20 — although I suspect that this figure, although publically available, may be a little out-of-date. The average local per-plot running costs for a UK local Council are unknown. It seems likely that site upkeep costs are lower in Stoke-on-Trent than elsewhere, due to the large number of sites and the economies of scale this must bring. But an indication of running costs in a comparable northerly city region is found in a 2004 debate on allotments in the House of Commons (Hansard, 9th December 2004). The then M.P. Ben Chapman told the House that in his constituency of Wirral South the annual cost of renting a plot was... “£25 a year against the council’s upkeep costs of £31”. Adjusting for inflation, Wirral South Council’s current upkeep costs are around £38.50 per plot. It therefore seems likely that, even taking into account pensioner discounts, the city of Stoke is at least breaking even by charging the current average £45-50 a year rent. By comparison, the allotments in the city of Norwich have been reported in the press as generating a profit of £27,540 on a plot rent of around £40. Despite this, rents there are now reportedly set to be increased to £70 a year in 2013/14 — which is expected to make the Council there a profit of £70,107. It seems regrettable that some Councils are now starting to see their allotments as cash-cows, and doubling or even tripling prices. But this might be preferable to Councils starting to see their allotments as ‘instant cash prizes’ to be sold to housing developers. This is especially true in the face of the coming house building boom likely to arise from the government’s March 2013 budget. Yet there are other costs to consider. The economics of allotments are not simply in cash income, but also in the wider social savings that arise from the incalculable health and well-being benefits for those working them — especially to men over 40. Raising allotment plot rates may bring some trifling profit for a Council, but the inadvertent long-term affect on male health could add many millions annually to the local health and social care budget.






“Sheds & Shacks | No:4”, by the Stoke-on-Trent artist and illustrator called Famous When Dead.

“The Garden” (2012) by Potteries artist Rachel Grant, who sells at Barewall in Burslem.

“Pottering About” (2012) by Potteries artist Chris Cyprus, who sells at Barewall in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent

“Shed Portrait”, from a series by Mary Wallace.


The Bird Yarden launches on 4th May 2013 at the AirSpace contemporary art gallery in Stoke-on-Trent city centre. Meet the Garden Design Doctor; hear Chris Baines on wildlife gardening; get tips from the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust; enjoy arts workshops; and hear talks by artists. See the new Yarden.

“A plot of one’s own”. Near Barlaston, North Staffordshire, 2011.

Wildflower seed bomb workshop with local artist Kate Lynch, held at AirSpace gallery in Stoke-on-Trent in later summer 2012. Picture: Kate Lynch.




FASHION INSPIRED by this new exhibition poster from Burslem’s Barewall Gallery at Staffas went in search of vintage Potteries ‘industrial district’ clothing that you can buy today — and found it!

The watercolour painting on the poster is by Geoffrey Wynne RI. Geoffrey originally trained at the Burslem School of Art, in Stoke-on-Trent. Also on show will be the winning painting in 2012’s 25th Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, “The Potteries National Park”. by Mark Elsmore.


Robbie Williams’s new menswear label Farrell has a strong North Staffordshire feel. His collection is inspired by Jack Farrell, the Stoke grandfather of designer Robbie Williams. Available now at House of Fraser or Above: The Farrell Baker Boy Cap. Below: Farrell Striped Braces and Grandad shirt. Right: Farrell Long Sleeve Grandad Tshirt. Bottom: Farrell football keyring.


Pictures courtesy of Farrell and Barewall.





Women’s waterproof ‘Katrina’ Black Wax Coat, made and sold by of Stafford, Staffordshire. Welligogs are makers of authentic English countryside clothes for men and women.

Left: Blenheim Menswear Aviator Sheepskin Jacket, made and sold by of Stafford, Staffordshire. In stock now. Right: Double-breasted vintage British motorcycling jacket from the 1920s. Probably Belstaff of Stoke-on-Trent, est. 1924. Where to buy? Try your luck down the local vintage and antique shops!


Boris Bidjan Saberi evokes a sort of "young Potteries factory worker" look, via The Road to Wigan Peir. Details of Saberi’s Autumn 2013 menswear range, seen above, can be found at Photography courtesy of Imaxtree.


Above: leather pair of steampunk flying goggles. Goggles NOT available on the High St. Try eBay! Right: Ryder hat in grey, made and sold by Pachacuti of Ashbourne in the Peak District. Pachacuti’s hats are genuine ‘fair trade’.




AROUND THE BEND: trends to watch for... Now: Little playful pleasures. Find the money / value for money. Babies. Lots of babies. Calming nostalgia and retro. Summer: Sweet 1965 shift dresses for waifs.... ....with one plain colour or bold 1970s b&w op-art. Rustic makeshift dens in the woods. Children’s street games. Storytelling. Underage kidpreneurs starting businesses. Curious kits for casual creativity. Naps in the office. Playfulness means purchases. Selling to the Americans. Pop-offs - pop-up shops + the Web. Selling virtual goods. Shorter trips, higher spending. No news is good news.

Around the bend: Me-tail - really customised retail. Local on-demand manufacturing. Local virtual retail goods. Social ‘pretailers’, curating your customer’s customised choices, before the purchase. Brand boom - the world’s new middle-classes spawn millions of new brands. ‘War gaming’ your business with others. Intuition (big data overload = insight fail). Dream-storming, not brainstorming. Hyper-informed evidence-based activists vs. tired and emotion-driven hippies. Digital handmades. Circuit-boards as design inspiration. Intelligent sensory edges. Transparency as a texture. Luminescence as a lustre. Biological/plant shapes in clothes. Wearable bio-gadgets for calmness. Modular tents made with new materials. Squeaky-clean and buttoned-up pop music. Hard science-fiction and hard electropop. Space-age style in fashion.

LOU MARSHALL Lou Marsall, Spring/Summer 2013: Cranberry linen kimono; nylon showerproof wrap skirt (made-to-measure); nylon and cotton mix utility shirt; shoes are model’s own.

Photos: Leanne Findler. Photoshoot location: the old Spode factory in Stoke town, Stoke-on-Trent.


The fabric of UK fashion: UK market analysts Mintel indicated that in 2009 the UK’s annual spending on designer clothing had risen to £2.5 billion — around 6.5% of the total UK retail clothing spend. The UK’s “high-end” designers and niche clothing retailers have mostly done rather well from 1995 to present. At the same time the “the rag trade” end of the industry has suffered heavily from cheap overseas competition via supermarkets. They also suffered from chain shop mismanagement, and the very steep rents on the UK High Street. In addition to clothing sales, our UK originated fashion design reportedly... * directly generates annual spending on marketing and fashion media of £446 million * directly sustains fashion education to an annual value of £16 million * fashion’s peripheral but integral activities — such as fashion education, fashion journalism, and services like photography — directly provide 3,700 UK jobs. Fashion is surrounded by a further cluster of other small industries — such as hair and nail care, make-up, perfume, watches, fashion-related events, websites and magazine publishing, and even our world-leading costuming services for dance, theatre, film, and TV. The relative ease of entry into the designer fashion industry — a sewing machine, some patterns and cloth — makes it more diverse than some others in the creative industries. The recent booms in “hand-made and vintage” and in knitting have also helped diversify those making new womenswear.

Lou Marsall, Spring/Summer 2013: Nylon and suede mix mini-cape (one-size); silk-organza and linen layered drawstring skirt; cotton suede collared shirt with backless and pleated back detail. From Lou’s Spring/Summer Collection 2013, “It’s educational”, by local womensear designer Lou Marsall of Newcastle-under-Lyme, North Staffordshire. Items shown are available now at:

Designer fashion also sustains our cultural vibrancy — especially when paired with the UK’s youth music scenes and when depicted in the media. Our designer fashion is one of the things that keeps us tied to America, and it is a key foundation for the UK’s more general overseas cultural “brand”. Facts sourced from: report by Oxford Economics, The Value of the UK Fashion Industry. British Fashion Council, February 2013.




Fashion photographer Ellen Rogers, who lives and works in North Staffordshire. www. Top: from Ellen’s’s “Local” series, Sept 2012. Bottom: from Ellen’s “Visitation” series, March 2013.

Picture: Beetlebrox

Picture: Public Domain

H.G. WELLS & THE POTTERIES “The Cone” is Wells’s macabre revenge story, vividly set in the vast ironworks at Etruria, Stoke.

H.G. Wells lived in the Potteries

His stay in the Potteries resulted in the macabre revenge story “The Cone” (1895). “The Cone” is set in the north of the city, and is now all that remains of a long saga he set in the Potteries. “The Cone” was, according to something Wells recalled in the 1920s, the remaining fragment of what was... “a vast melodrama, all at that same level of high sensation.” Here’s an extract from the story, to be found in the The unique environment of the Potteries Wells collection The Country of the Blind proved an inspiration for him. Wells wrote and Other Stories... in another letter... “the district made an immense impression on me”. More “A blue haze, half dust, half mist, specifically, here is H.G. Wells’s letter touched the long valley with mystery. to his father, about a visit to Stoke’s old Beyond were Hanley and Etruria, grey Wedgwood manufactory in 1888... and dark masses, outlined thinly by the rare golden dots of the street lamps, “Considering the great reputation of and here and there a gaslit window, or the firm, I was rather surprised at the the yellow glare of some late-working ramshackle state of the works, which are, factory or crowded public-house. Out with extensions and innumerable patchy of the masses, clear and slender against alterations, the same that the immortal the evening sky, rose a multitude of tall Josiah erected a century ago; they consist chimneys, many of them reeking, a few of big, hive-shaped ovens and barn-like smokeless during a season of “play.” Here but many storied buildings where the and there a pallid patch and ghostly potters and painters work, standing stunted beehive shapes showed the towards each other at angles, with position of a pot-bank, or a wheel, black queer narrow passages and archways and sharp against the hot lower sky, penetrating them, with flimsy wooden marked some colliery where they raise staircases outside the building and with the iridescent coal of the place. Nearer at innumerable windows opaque with dirt hand was the broad stretch of railway, and and crusted like bottles of ancestral wine half invisible trains shunted — a steady with cobwebs and mouldy matter. There puffing and rumbling, with every run a are grinding mills moreover, which creak ringing concussion and a rhythmic series and groan as the mills roar round...” of impacts, and a passage of intermittent in 1888, at Victoria Street, Basford Bank. He was recovering from an illness, and was still seven years away from his worldshattering literary success with The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds. From Basford he wrote to a friend that... “Some day I shall succeed, I really believe, but it is a weary game.”

puffs of white steam across the further view. And to the left, between the railway and the dark mass of the low hill beyond, dominating the whole view, colossal, inky-black, and crowned with smoke and fitful flames, stood the great cylinders of the Jeddah Company Blast Furnaces, the central edifices of the big ironworks of which Horrocks was the manager. They stood heavy and threatening, full of an incessant turmoil of flames and seething molten iron, and about the feet of them rattled the rolling-mills, and the steam hammer beat heavily and splashed the white iron sparks hither and thither. Even as they looked, a truckful of fuel was shot into one of the giants, and the red flames gleamed out, and a confusion of smoke and black dust came boiling upwards towards the sky.” Wells lived here for three months, and also visited several times later in his life at the invitation of novelist Arnold Bennett. Creatives who wish to adapt “The Cone” should note that it officially goes into the UK public-domain on 1st January 2017. It is already public-domain in the USA and Australia. Further reading: R.G. Hampson, “H.G. Wells and the Staffordshire Potteries”, Wellsian, 3 (1980), pages 1-5.




SUMMER FUN WITH ANCIENT TRADITIONS! Because, like, why wouldn’t you want to dance around with giant reindeer antlers on, or be Queen of The May for a day? Why not visit a traditional local event this summer? There are some key ones in the Staffordshire Moorlands and the adjacent Peak District, keeping alive cultural forms that have died out or been commercialised elsewhere. Or you could have a go at re-inventing your own traditional celebration


in your street or pub garden. Think about: papier-mache masks based on ancient designs; children singing traditional rhymes; May flower garlands and a Maypole; outdoors piggy-back pillow-fights; storytelling; learning the old traditional children’s street games such as pavement hopscotch and its songs.

EVENTS 9th - 14th May 2013 Tissington Well Dressing at Tissington Traditional well dressing event. Easy access from North Staffs.

29th May 2013 Garland King Day at Castleton, in the Peak Traditional Garland King horseback procession.

31st May - 2nd June 2013. Acoustic Festival of Britain, Uttoxeter Major festival of traditional folk music and musicians.

22nd - 29th June 2013 Biddulph Well Dressing at Biddulph Moor Traditional well dressing event.

16th - 18th August 2013 Just So Festival, near Stoke-on-Trent Unique young children’s arts festival of imagination and magic!

14th - 22th September 2013 Hartington Well Dressing at Hartington Traditional well dressing event. Easy access from North Staffs.

9th September 2013 The annual Abbots Bromley Horn Dance Picture: Diego’s Sideburns

The famous annual performance of the ancient horn dance.


Picture: David Adams Photographed 2012 in woodland at Bucknall, Stoke-on-Trent. Hand-finished clothes by Midlands’ girlswear designer Damselfly at Model: Molly, who makes her own moodboards for her photo sessions.



FIND THE WEIRDSTONE Summer reading — the classic children’s fantasy The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner of Congleton. Set on Alderley Edge about 20 miles north of Stoke.




The famous Staffordshire Hoard, in a major exhibition at the main Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, until 1st September. Free!

Girls practicing for the Bournville Maypole Day, in Birmingham. Picture: Pete Ashton.

Castleton Garland Day, Derbyshire. Picture: Somewhere in the world today.


2012 ‘s Garland King at the annual Castleton Garland Day, Derbyshire (traditionally held 29th May). Picture: Somewhere in the world today.

Completed 2012 well-dressing at Tissington, on the Staffordshire Moorlands side of the Peak District National Park. The wells are dressed annually with designs made from moss, flowers and petals.

Picture: Amanda B.H. Slater

Right: 2013 site map for the Just So festival, a unique young children’s arts festival held just five miles from Stoke. The 2013 dates are 16th-18th August. Left: 2012 traditional maypole dancers at the annual Castleton Garland Day, Peak District.

Picture: Wild Rumpus CIC





An ancient Neolithic site with standing stones, the remains of a massive ‘long barrow’ tomb. Located: between Congleton and Biddulph. The name of the Bridestones originates with the local folklore, collected in the 1890s by the local antiquarian Miss C.S. Bone and her friend Miss Keary. The local oral belief was then that the stones are the burial tomb of the young and newly-married bride of a great warrior. The bride had accompanied her husband into a battle, and had fought in that battle, as was the way of the ancient British. She was killed in the battle, near to the location of the stones. Some of the removed stones were said to have been used in Victorian times in the making of Tunstall Park, in Stoke-on-Trent.

Picture: Steve Gill


Ice Age horse drawing on bone, found Creswell Crags, Derbyshire Peak

The Bridestones. OS Map 118 Ref: SJ906622






The Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire Hoard

Early medieval wall tile, North Staffordshire

New stone circle, Festival Park, Stoke









Picture: Fred Hughes


The Bridestones and Elias Ashmore By Fred Hughes.

Close to Burslem is the ancient ritual monument of the Bridestones. Little is known of their establishment or origin, although archeologists note they were once part of a much larger Neolithic complex. Were the stones later Druidical altars for sacrifice, or related to marriage as the name ‘Bride’ suggests? Or were they simply standing stones marking burial grounds? One thing is certain; the stones have suffered and have sustained much movement, removal and defacement in more recent eras, so much so that the true meaning of their existence may never be known. One important early visitor to the Bridestones was the curious and multitalented scholar Elias Ashmole (16171692). Ashmole was a lawyer and wealthy Royalist who gave his name to the massive antiquarian collections in Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. Ashmole visited the Bridestones toward the end of his life. He declared the fourteen stones to be a Druidical kist-vaen — a burial or sacrificial spot — rather than a wedding site as the name implies. He also related the stones to the experience of the symbolism of the ‘green man’ of British folklore. Ashmole was born into a prominent Staffordshire family whose fortunes had declined. He schooled at Lichfield, where he was a choirister at Lichfield Cathedral. He went on to study mathematics and physics at Brasenose College, acquiring a lifelong interest in astronomy, astrology, and magic. He became a founding member of the Royal Society, and was acknowledged as an expert historiographer (the history of history writing). Like many of our early scientists, Ashmole was also an alchemist. During the 1650s, he extensively studied alchemy, publishing his theories under the pseudonym ‘James Hasolle’. In 1652, he published his most important alchemical work, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, an extensively annotated compilation of metaphysical poems in English. Ashmole became well known for his large collection of alchemical writings, yet also persued standard chemistry and the use of therapeutic remedies. In 1669, he received a Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Oxford. Ashmole was also known as one of the earliest Freemasons. It was in 1646 that he was admitted as a Freemason at Warrington, Cheshire. Although little is detailed about his Masonic activities, Ashmole’s diary entries are among the earliest references to Freemasonry known in England. He was also reputed to be a zealous Rosicrucian, and was someone given to casting astrological horoscopes to predict the future.

His great Ashmolean Museum was completed in 1683, and is considered by some to be Europe’s first public museum of antiquities, books, manuscripts, prints, together with thousands of coins and medals. Sadly much of his original material was lost in a disastrous fire in the Middle Temple in 1679. Ashmole had a turbulent political career late in his life. King James II personally asked him to stand down in a local election, in favour of the King’s own candidate. The king’s candidate was Richard Leveson. Once in office Leveson promptly spent a fortune of £6,000 in rebuilding the family seat at Trentham Hall, North Staffordshire. Trentham had fallen to the Parliamentary army during the Civil War, and so the house was then in need of restoration. Ashmole was a character in which a hierarchical vision of the world was realised — through his belief in the order of royalty, in heraldry, genealogy, ceremony, astrology and magic. His lasting legacy is today his antiquarian work as a collector and curator. His visit to the Bridestones was the culmination of a pilgrimage during which he had trekked between each of the ruins of the North Staffordshire Cistercian monasteries: Croxton Abbey; Hulton Abbey; and Dieulacres Abbey near Leek. Further reading: Tobias Churton, Magus: The Invisible Life of Elias Ashmole, Signal Publishing, Lichfield, 2004.

Elias Ashmole of Staffordshire.

Trentham, North Staffordshire, after restoration, mid 1680s.

Page from the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, his anthology of metaphysical alchemical texts.


“Until he spied upon a lawn a low green mound, a green bulge ... he turned to the mound and slowly moved around it. Debating with himself what manner of thing it was. It had a hole in the end and one on either side, all overgrown with greenish weeds in shaggy, grassy clumps. All within was hollow...” — from the 14th century strange tale called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written in the Staffordshire Moorlands and partly set in the area. Translated by J.L. Rosenberg, 1959.

The Bridestones. From a picture by Simon Collister.








Stone’s Conservative MP. Bill Cash has a massive biography of the Birmingham Tory who helped give the working classes the vote in 1867. By his no-nonsense approach to reform, Bright cleared the ground for many of the liberties we enjoy today - such as freedom of the press.

A gritty fast-paced crime thriller based in Stoke-onTrent. A debut novel that proved a big kit on the Amazon Kindle ebook reader. Mel Sherratt plays up the city’s political and economic woes, but never lets the reader forget it also has a ready wit and a friendly heart.

A new international anthology of stories edited from North Staffordshire. This collection lands us amid ancient standing stones, burial mounds, ruined or sunken settlements and ancient sites, and infuses these with mysticism and myth, folklore and the fantastical.

Shane Oakley’s new graphic novel (with major writer Alan Grant) was published in the UK by Renegade on 13th March 2013. Shane is an internationally-acclaimed professional comics artist, and an illustrator of horror and the gothic. He works from the Wolstanton Marsh area of the Potteries.

NEW BOOKS FROM STOKE & STAFFS WHIMSICAL HATS is a new DIY creative knitting book from local maker Lyne Rowe. Due in Summer 2013.

THE LITTLEST MAMMOTH is a new children’s book illustrated by Luke Brookes, a graduate of Staffordshire University who is based in the town of Leek.



ABERRANT NECROPOLIS an 80-page hardback photobook of the work of North Staffs photographer Ellen Rogers, designed by Prizme.

KATABASIS, a book collaboration between Ellen Rogers and Prizme both of North Staffs, and Kennaland.

Photobooks, crime, mystery-horror, a children’s book, fantasy, a graphic novel, biogs, and more — take your pick!





Your Editor’s 60,000-word mystery-horror novel, set in an alternative Burslem in 1869. A new age of industry and learning struggles to be born in the town, as a young graduate arrives there to teach the workers. But he soon finds himself on the trail of a deadly evil...

Local historian Fred Hughes has a new short 48-page biography of Barnett Stross, doctor, councillor and MP, who became internationally famous for leading the global protest movement around the Nazi destruction of the village of Lidice in 1942.

Jonathan Taylor’s new novel is based in the city of Stokeon-Trent. Jonathan grew up in Trentham, in the south of the city, and he has used the city as a backdrop for a new literary novel of eccentricity, obsessions, and fiery visions.

A new historical novel of the Potteries, written by the conservative historian A.N. Wilson who grew up in the city. The work centres around the interior and inventing life of Josiah Wedgwood, master potter on Stoke-on-Trent.





Small magazine publishing can still be a rewarding niche small business

in the UK, despite what the economic gloomsters would have you believe. Step away from the highrisk High Street newsstand, and you’ll find we even have a small cluster of magazines published from Stoke and nearby. This article is a comprehensive visual survey of those local magazines. As such it may be useful if readers are seeking suitable audiences for your adverts or PR — or perhaps even for placing your articles or visuals. Nationally, our consumer magazine market is still the most advanced and competitive on the planet, with almost as many titles published and read here as in the entire USA!

THE MIDLANDS IN BUSINESS formerly Staffordshire in Business. Bimonthly.

Every year the UK magazine market sells around 1.5 billion magazines. Yes, billion. The total worth of the entire UK sector is estimated by business analysts to be £4.88bn per year — with around £3bn of that income being generated by consumer titles. The industry is estimated to employ around 114,000 people in the UK, and the niche and mainstream content we produce is the best in the world. Note also that advertisers and paid subscribers have historically made an early return to magazines, as a recession eases. Magazine publishing is bigger than film or music in the UK — and yet it is often unregarded or taken for granted. Should we take it more seriously?

FOCUS : magazine of the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce. Quarterly.

PROTOTYPE : published in high-quality print from Stokeon-Trent. Creative arts, fashion, and youth focus. SA MAGAZINE : The new high-quality official magazine for the alumni of Staffordshire University. Triannual?

4FRONT : the magazine of the South Cheshire Chamber of Commerce. Quarterly.

inBUSINESS WEST MIDLANDS the news publication of the West Midlands CBI. Quarterly.



STAFFORDSHIRE LIVING glossy women’s lifestyle publication. Bimonthly.

STAFFORDSHIRE LIFE : a long-running magazine, established 1982. Monthly.

THE STAFFORDSHIRE MAGAZINE : covers Stafford to Cannock. Bimonthly.

YOUR STAFFORDSHIRE : official magazine of Staffs County Council. Monthly.

OUR CITY : official free magazine of Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Quarterly.

STAFFORDSHIRE COUNTY Edited from Birmingham. Monthly.

CHESHIRE LIFE : stories cover “the finer things” in Cheshire. Monthly.

STAFFORDSHIRE WILDLIFE Staffs Wildlife Trust. Large male readership. Quarterly.

POTTERS : the matchday magazine of Stoke City F.C. On matchdays.

IN BLACK & WHITE : the matchday magazine of Port Vale F.C. On matchdays.

ENTERPRISING TIMES : from the Business School at Staffs University. Triannual.

PARK LIFE : official magazine of the Peak District National Park. Biannual.

LEEK LIFE : a regular glossy magazine for the town of Leek. Bimonthly.

PEAKLAND GUARDIAN: by the Friends of the Peak District. Biannual.

PURE BUXTON : glossy free indie magazine for the town of Buxton. Monthly.




STONE LIFE : glossy magazine for the town of Stone. Bimonthly.

THE STONE LOCAL : grasroots magazine for the town of Stone. Monthly.

STAFFORDSHIRE OUTLOOK : covers Stafford town to Cannock. Bimonthly.

SENTINEL MAGAZINE : free with Stoke’s Sentinel newspaper. Each Saturday.

RESIDENCE : the Keele University halls of residence magazine. Triannual.

ELSIE : acclaimed personal magazine, from Woore on the North Staffs border.

STOKE ROCKS : prototype rock music magazine produced late Summer 2012.

VINTAGE : a magazine for all things vintage, edited from Congleton. Monthly.

UNIQUE BRIDE : for those planning quirky weddings. Published from Congleton.

ACHIEVE : for parents with children at private schools. Published from Congleton.

SKIRMISH : niche magazine for historical re-enactors. Published from Congleton.

FAITH TODAY : Religious magazine published from Penkhull, Stoke-on-Trent.

PUBLIC SERVANT : public sector professional magazine. From Newcastle-u-L.

H&R TRAINING : about training staff in large firms. From Newcastle-u-L.

PUBLIC SERVICE REVIEW insider news on EU science, the EU, healthcare policy.

CHESHIRE FARMART : a copy is posted to all farms in North Staffordshire.






LEFT: 3ft high ceramic sculpture by Katherine Morling, inspired by the animals depicted on the Staffordshire Hoard. One of the new series of her sculptures installed alongside the Hoard in the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent city centre. On display there until 1st Sept 2013. Commissioned by the city, (which , incidentally, has a boar’s head on its coat of arms). BELOW: Exclusive preview of a painting from the new “Surreal Gothic Fairytales” series by Stoke-on-Trent artist Paine Proffitt. His new series is unveiled at the Barewall Gallery in Burslem on 18th May 2013. Paine lives and works in Stoke-on-Trent, and sells through Barewall. Picture: Paine Proffitt.




“The Morning Hour”. Pictures: Ieva Alksne


Figurative ceramics work by Ieva Alksne Ceramics. Ieva is a Latvian ceramic artist, and for the past few years she has worked as assistant manager at the Burslem School of Art in Stoke-on-Trent. Her delightful ceramic work is mainly in hand-built figurative sculptures, largely created in stoneware and porcelain, and often combined with metal wire - which is implemented in sculptures after firing.

“Lost In Thought�. Pictures: Ieva Alksne




GreaterGhost are a Stoke-on-Trent band who recently released their first E.P. — Fear the Distance — steaming it for free online. The band also made a series of studio video documentaries about the experience, available now on YouTube. The band are currently working on their second E.P. The elegant sleeve design is by Garrick Middleton — a graphic designer based in the town of Leek, near Stoke-on-Trent.



The community creation of a pilot Potteries Tile Trail is underway. A team of local people are visiting tiled places in Stoke-on-Trent, North Staffs, and across the UK. This is being led by local curator Danny Callaghan with the Tiles & Architectural Ceramics Society (TACS). It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘All Our Stories’ initiative. The pilot Trail will take the form of dedicated website — offering a series of interactive self-guided walks that can be printed or accessed using a mobile device. See the article on the Trail in Staffas. Picture credit: Bret Shah of Stoke-on-Trent, one of the Tile Trail participants. Minton tiles in Hartshill Church, Stoke-on-Trent.



STAFFAS All The Young are a Stoke-on-Trent band who recently signed a six-album deal with Warner Bros. Records. Their first album, recorded live at the King’s Hall in Stoke town, was made officially available for free online. The band toured the UK in Nov and Dec 2012. During February/March 2013 they have been cutting studio demos for their second album. “... rousing, anthemic songs” — The Sunday Times.



Pictures: Warner Brothers Records UK




Sir Stanley Matthews character designs for a new animated feature-film, Spirit of the Game, by BAFTA-winning animator Tony White and writer Geoff Francis. Local voice talent has already been recruited in Stoke-on-Trent, and the film’s production is now underway. Artwork: Tony White.


Molly Crows is a feature film based on the infamous Molly Leigh — the last accused witch of Burslem, a town of Stoke-on-Trent. Ray Wilkes’s Molly Crows is a polished indie horror that’s currently in post production. The fine trailer is available now. The film’s shooting was reportedly split between Wales and Burslem, with the upper floors of the Burslem’s Leopard Hotel likely to feature heavily in the final cut when it opens in late 2013. The film’s blurb runs: “When seven year old Jess [Mercy Gaiger] and her alcoholic Mother arrive in Haslem [Burslem], she’s an easy target for the local bullies. But there’s something different about Jess...” Poster design: by Ade Kestrel.




Pulp is a new 2013 comedy feature film set in the world of Midlands comics fandom. Currently exclusively and officially available on the Microsoft Xbox videogame console. The film was made in Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham, by Dare Productions & Stoke-on-Trent’s Reels in Motion.


Shane Oakley’s new Channel Evil graphic novel (with major writer Alan Grant) was published by Renegade on 13th March 2013. Shane is an internationally-acclaimed professional comics artist, and an illustrator of horror and the gothic. He works from the Wolstanton Marsh area of the Potteries. All artwork: Shane Oakley.








HEAD IN THE CLOUDS Let’s scale the heights and explore the underground...


round one day a year should do it. A special day on which the city’s creatives would be given access to the high places of the city. To the highest rooftops. To the towers and steeples. To the silent, airy, upper floors that have been so long unvisited. To all those otherwise inaccessible high places. What to do there? I’m sure we’d think of a few things. Take in the view, no doubt. Change our perceptions of the city, perhaps discover potential artist garretts. Make photographs or paintings, launch a thousand balloons (each weighted with a wildflower seed-bomb), bounce a giant music-making laser beam off Jodrell



Bank — the usual sorts of wild things that artists can dream up and actually make happen. And then there are also the underground spaces, likewise inaccessible. What if, on the same day, some of our more heightphobic creatives were also permitted free access to the city’s underground spaces? To the cellars and the tunnels, to the crypts and the storage rooms, to the old nuclear war bunkers under the city’s town halls. What inspirations might be discovered down there, or up there in the sky?

Below: John Doe, about to enter the entombed channel of the Ford Green Brook, a natural stream now forced to flow under the north-eastern part of the city of Stoke-on-Trent.

Victorian record drawing of a Staffordshire clogg almanac.

Why the name Staffas? ‘Stafas’ was the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) word for pre-book runic markwriting. Like the symbols on the weird marked sticks pictured above, one of Staffordshire’s ancient and rare ‘clogg almanacs’. These carefully carved sticks were a handy combination of data and dates, a perpetual calendar engraved with all sorts of mysterious rune-like marks and the times of annual folk

festivals. A sort of calendar ‘app’ on a stick, if you like — but they were in use many centuries before our digital apps ever came along. It was probably our county’s fame for using these special ‘stafas’ sticks which originally gave the county the name of ‘Staffordshire’, since they are not often found elsewhere. So what better name for a new magazine than... Staffas.

STAFFAS Editor: David Haden All pictures and art not credited: David Haden Small thumbnail-size images used under the new ‘fair use’ rules in the UK Digital production: David Haden Submit: May 2013.

Picture: John Doe

Staffas : for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire  

A cultural personal 'zine for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire.

Staffas : for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire  

A cultural personal 'zine for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire.