‘Hot Air’ Stoke on Trent Literacy Festival

Over 3 days 9th,10th & 11th June, Stoke-on-Trent held a literacy festival, seems appropriate to happen considering the greats that have arisen from the Staffordshire, Alan Bennett, Arthur Berry not forgetting the writing skills of Robbie and don’t forget that Kipling was named after a Lake in the area!
I attended the last day after hearing good reports from the first two successful days, it was held in the lovely setting of the Emma Bridgewater Factory in Hanley (city centre)

The first sitting was Lisa Blower, author of ‘Sitting Ducks’ about the Minton family trying to save their home in present day Stoke on Trent, this was an interesting session with questions being asked about childhood life in SOT and also pressing touchy subjects such as was the book to working class – I have not read the book but from the extracts read out to us it seems quite edgy, realistic approach to life with dry humour, a little bit like a Stokie!
I do find though why do we feel the need to write about Stoke like its drab and dreary, yes I agree its not the most picturesque city and a mish mash really of beautiful and grotesque buildings, but if people keep writing about it like that we are never going to change peoples minds and perception of it.

The next was Sarah Raven, it was my mum who persuaded me to this one, she sold it as ‘Gardener, Flower arranger & Cook’ (person after my mothers heart) but i was willing to give it ago.
I was pleasantly surprised by how fascinating it was, telling us how she had come to realise eating copious amounts of cheese, butter, cream and wine wasn’t going to make you last forever (Really!) She went through some of her recipes in her new book (obviously as was at a literacy fest) essentially she was inspiring people to think about the foods that you put into your meals
Top Health Tips:
1. Eat eggs almost every day
2. Have three mouth fulls of protein before you eat anything else on your plate
3. Kale kale kale and more kale
4. Rapeseed oil can withstand high temperatures of cooking so better for you

After all the talk about food, it was clearly time to eat, and had tea in the Emma Bridgewater cafe (felt inclined to be healthy after all the talk of it)

Simon Jenkins afterwards talking on Historic Houses in Britain, as former Chairman of the National Trust, it was apparent fairly quickly that he was against the Moto ‘Please do not touch’ which has almost become the synonym with NatTrust. But he wanted the houses not just to be looked at but enjoyed; to sit and read a book in the library of a great house, but the kettle on in the kitchen and follow the story of an important event or story.
I recently visited Upton House in Warwickshire and the hole house had been used as a bank in the Second World War and they had set it out exactly like it had been in 1940, even uncovering the Anderson shelter!

Lastly was the Pottery Throw Down special, up on the panel was Tristam Hunt interviewing: Emma Bridgewater, Keith Brymer Jones (Judge) and Jim Ranson. First Question how it started – the idea was born after Love productions aproaching Keith after seeing a video of him throwing a pot dressed as Adele apparently – says it all, but when coming up with the layout of the program it was not sold as a talent competition but a group of potters showing off their skills.
This immediately brought up comments of educating ceramics in school and after Stoke on Trent had received such good publicity from it has it increased tourism. Both are very good points,
1. I don’t think teaching ceramics in schools is going to happen anytime soon however, pottery classes i think maybe needed in the area and potentially a business idea for someone
2. Tourism in SOT will and always be popular, we don’t see the numbers queuing out the door on a scale as Buckingham Palace or clogging up the streets of Bibury, however i would like to remind that Stoke on Trent has 15+ visitor attractions and its easy to loose a lot of people in such a big place.

So what i learn’t, if people stopped describing Stoke as a working class city with black walls and smoke filled lungs, re-invent the oatcake without cheese and bacon, fill it with Kale and beetroot, let people touch and handle everything in the city… we may only may get more tourist.

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