On Saturday I had my first trip to one of the UK’s alleged worst cities, Stoke on Trent in the county of Staffordshire. If someone tells me a place is dire or I see its dismally low charting on geographic websites, I really do have to go and see it for myself.
Stoke on Trent is unusual in that the city is bulked out by six towns – Hanley, Burslem, Fenton, Longton, Tunstall and Stoke-upon-Trent (the Trent is the third longest river in the UK). I visited the main city centre which is Hanley, solo and by train. I walked via Hanley park where graffiti on a bridge construction site encouraged me to “Get high like Bob Marley”. The park was a very likeable space, deserted in the bitter cold except for the many geese, ducks and pigeons. And swallows in the gazebo.
Stoke gave birth to Robbie Williams, Slash of Guns N’ Roses and Lemmy, lead singer of Motörhead, whose bust below is temporarily displayed at the central museum.
“Death is an inevitability, isn’t it? You become more aware of that when you get to my age. I don’t worry about it. I’m ready for it. When I go, I want to go doing what I do best. If I died tomorrow, I couldn’t complain. It’s been good.”
Ian Fraser Kilmister (1945 – 2015)
Lemmy’s many rock and roll escapades detailed in his autobiography had me hooked several years ago. In his early career he attempted his first crowd surf, only to find when he leapt from the stage the crowd parted like the red sea and the floor boards rapidly shot up to greet his nose.
It was interesting to note that all of these musicians left Stoke, never again to reside there.
Music aside, Stoke on Trent is most famous for pottery and its six towns are commonly known as ‘The Potteries” where ceramic goods such as the famous Wedgwood are created. Josiah Wedgwood (1730 – 1795) took up pottery at the age of 9 and went onto become one of the UK’s greatest entrepreneurs. He was a diligent campaigner against slavery and so I like to think his factory are full of happy staff to date.
Despite some fabulous architecture, Stoke is quite a run down area with many closed down business but I know that if we seek beauty, we will always find it. Such as this wall art entitled “New Horizons”. There were actually two birds in this picture but a parked car got in the way of one so you you will just have to imagine a twin gazing into the eyes of this fellow.
Having checked my (usually very reliable) Happy Cow food app, I was advised a “proper” vegan lunch would not be too readily available in this city so I necked a carob bar from a health shop. Surprisingly on my way back to the rail station I passed a modern juice bar and whole-food cafe called RAWR. Next time… http://www.bemorerawr.co.uk.