The official shortlist for the City of Culture 2021 bid was announced on Friday 14th July, with the following cities: Swansea, Paisley, Sunderland, Coventry…and Stoke-on-Trent! Yes, that’s right, our city is still in the running and the bid has been at the centre of everyone’s minds for a long time. Residents have well and truly come together to show the rest of the country exactly what the Six Towns has to offer and how it can thrive from winning this title. The investment already being put in to the city that last won this title, Hull, shows what can be achieved after having been awarded City of Culture.
So why should Stoke-on-Trent win? As a student of Staffordshire University, I want to plead our city’s case. Here are just a few reasons why I personally believe that Stoke-on-Trent deserves to be the City of Culture 2021.
1. Preserving the heritage
It’s safe to say that there are very few people who don’t know that Stoke-on-Trent was once the world leader for pottery, with some well-known brands still in distribution today. Emma Bridgewater has become a fashionable homeware brand, particularly for their distinctive spotty mugs, and people still flock to the city to visit the many museums that keep the sites of the old factories alive and standing. But, without investment, one day these museums will be forced to close and that precious history will be lost forever when buildings are either demolished or are left to become ruins. Sure, Emma Bridgewater will survive because it has managed to find its place in a 21st century world, but its presence will serve as a painful reminder of what else could have been saved for the future generations to enjoy. It’s cliché to say, but in this case it couldn’t be more true – once it’s gone, it’s gone. If we were to win this award, more money could be put into keeping the heritage alive and most importantly, preserved.
2. Past investment has already given a taste of what can be done
When money is granted for public places to be improved and modernised, that is what retains a city’s life. The investment that went into the intu Potteries shopping centre in Hanley, where a whole complex was built to house a huge Cineworld and adjacent food court, has been a resounding success and boost for the city since it opened. Before this, the only option for people was to travel to Etruria and visit the Odeon to watch a film, which was not easily accessible for those who did not travel in by car (so a vast majority of Staffs’ students). Now, you can visit the Potteries for a day of shopping and easily finish off the day with a film and a meal out. In the grand scheme of things, this was just a small taste of the potential the city has when it is just invested in, and if we were to win the bid, there would be the opportunity to branch out and begin improving the surrounding towns rather than focusing solely on the city centre.
3. The university has been recognised, so the city should be recognised too
Staffs was recently revealed to be second in the whole country for graduate employability, giving new and current students the peace of mind of knowing that they have an exceptional chance of getting a job after leaving Staffs. If the university is achieving so much, then why shouldn’t its surrounding city be recognised for its vibrant and diverse culture? Two achievements in such a short space of time would put Stoke-on-Trent firmly on the map.
4. The city is a perfect mix of architecture and green space
Personally, I am not a fan of really built-up cities with skyscrapers and buildings as far as the eye can see. Stoke-on-Trent is unique in this sense, as there is a mix of this typical cityscape, but just around every corner is a green space that reminds you that it is surrounded by beautiful Staffordshire countryside. Hanley Park, which is currently being restored to its former glory as part of an ongoing project funded by charity, is an excellent escape from city life, right on the doorstep of the city. Queen’s Park in Longton, a personal favourite of mine, is a hidden gem in the heart of a dated town, looked after in such a way that it is simply a pleasure to visit it. And all woven in to the Six Towns. This only goes to show how much more there is to this city than meets the eye, and why it should be awarded City of Culture.
5. Let’s get rid of that bad reputation!
As a student that came from another area of the country to be at Staffs, I know first-hand that the city doesn’t have the best reputation. It seems to be a case of people being respectful of the pottery heritage, but then refusing to accept the culture of calling people ‘duck’ and being in a city made up of abandoned buildings and terraced houses as much as shiny new shopping centres and cinemas. After just 8 months of living there, I feel strongly that this reputation should change. The people of Stoke-on-Trent are proud and welcoming, and I have never felt as though it was deserving of any kind of negative impression. Nowhere is perfect, but this city is not what it appears to be on the outside, and the kind of publicity and spotlight winning City of Culture 2021 would shine on Stoke-on-Trent is an excellent step to changing this once and for all. And rightly too!
I could go on forever, but these are just the main reasons why I believe our city can and should win this award. Now that it has made the shortlist, we just need one more push to get to the very top! There is so much potential to improve this area and give its loyal residents what they deserve – a city to be even prouder of, the City of Culture 2021.