"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." - Marcus Garvey
As you may well know, we followed Stoke-on-Trent’s 2021 City of Culture bid incredibly closely and although victory wasn’t on the cards on this occasion, the shortlisting certainly did have its advantages.
Despite not winning the race, the initiatives developed as a direct result of Stoke-on-Trent’s City of Culture campaign not only put this rising destination back on the map, but it's also given The Potteries a major boost in terms of art, music and design, as well as wider access to creative pursuits. All of the key ingredients to a successful, culturally diverse UK city.
In a conversation with The Sentinel, City Centre Partnership chairman Jonathan Bellamy said:
“Our UK City of Culture bid should not be taken in isolation but in context. The context of a city centre which is already attracting new national restaurant brands and businesses, unique local independent shops and cafes, a Hilton hotel, and an increasingly creative Appetite arts programme on its streets."
An incredibly encouraging statement and a mindset that will see the city thrive in the coming years, particularly in terms of cultural progress, the amenity development and property prices.
Now, one of the areas of the city that is leading the way concerning cultural evolution is Hanley’s Cultural Quarter.
Hanley’s Cultural Quarter: a brief background
According to White's Directory of 1834 for Staffordshire, Hanley is described ‘a large modern town, the biggest in The Potteries and the second in Staffordshire’.
Back then, its streets were spacious and well paved and its houses were striking, even elegant. As a result of this perceived opulence, some of Hanley's streets are said to be directly named after those in London. As a result, we have Cheapside, Pall Mall, and of course, Piccadilly.
Due to its proximity to the longstanding Regent Theatre, as well as The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Piccadilly is now aptly referred to as the Heart of Hanley’s Cultural Quarter.
For some time, this small section of town was somewhat neglected, making the term ‘Cultural Quarter’ almost ironic in the eyes of some local folk - but in recent times, it’s experienced somewhat of a renaissance.
A longstanding staple of Hanley’s Cultural Quarter, the Regent Theatre has been through many changes since being opened in 1929. Showcasing many plays, musicals, community groups and high-quality performance art over the years, this enduring venue is still as popular today as if ever was - having recently hosted CBeebies’ iconic Christmas Panto, among many other acclaimed productions.
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
For decades, this innovative cultural space has hosted the best exhibits, expos and artefacts the city has to offer - and these days, it’s thriving.
Benefiting from a £9,000 National Lottery Grant, the museum has expanded its offerings, holding a frequent lineup of artistic workshops, children’s events, musical showcases, and an ever-changing roster of temporary exhibits, such as Apollo 50 - a glimpse at history's first lunar landing. A real testament to the city’s commitment to culture.
A fairly new addition to the Piccadilly area, AirSpace is a cutting-edge collaborative project led by the area’s best local artists.
This refreshingly contemporary venue puts together local art exhibits, residencies, performances and exclusive events - and although it’s currently in its infancy - we believe that AirSpace will continue going from strength to strength, attracting a raft of fresh talent to the area.
Big ambitions for Piccadilly and its surrounding streets
As Hanley’s Cultural Quarter continues to rise, new businesses akin to those you’re likely to see in East London’s Shoreditch or Manchester’s Northern Quarter, continue to pop up in the area.
These noteworthy establishments (you must check them out) include:
One of the shining light’s of Hanley’s Cultural Quarter - and a Rockett Recommends featured business - The Quarter is a real gem. A deli, bistro, tapas bar, gin & craft beer hotspot, piano joint and art venue, whatever your tastes or preferences, this is really a must-try.
Realizing the rising potential of this now truly cultural hotspot, the vast majority of Picadilly’s new businesses have formed an alliance to further develop this thriving section of town.
Now at least 10 businesses strong, this collective of ambitious business owners has big plans for the area including the introduction of a weekly artisan market, an annual festival, the promotion of cutting-edge street performers and the launch of innovative fringe art.
Speaking on these grand plans, RAWR’s Steve Armstrong (speaking to The Sentinel), explained:
"One of the big reasons RAWR came here was the like-minded businesses and now we have decided to work together. We have already been helping each other informally, and I wondered if we could push on that and work closely together.
We have so many customers come in saying that they had no idea what was down here and that they really like it.
I would like to see an artisan market held along here on Sundays to bring people in.”
Overall, this progress is nothing short of commendable and a real indicator of the positive transformation that Stoke-on-Trent is currently experiencing.
Boasting a healthy property market, a raft of potentially lucrative buy-to-let opportunities, the development of new infrastructure, an ever-expanding portfolio of amenities and an undeniable cultural evolution, there’s no reason that Stoke-on-Trent can’t become the next Manchester or Birmingham in the not so distant future. Get in there now while you can.