Saturday, 5 July 2014


Beneath the Pavement… blog entry
Katrinka Wilson 4/7/2014

Here’s a story I’ve heard about the six towns that are tucked down in the rolling hills of ancient Staffordshire. Six different towns but named together after the fruits of their labours and the earth they stand upon; six divisible places, cosy in the collective noun, ‘The Potteries’. Six towns, where the spirit is so bold, and the heart so warm that many tales are told of the bravery and generosity of their folk. Six towns that lie at the heart of this realm, breeding soldiers, miners, makers, inventors and rebels; home to a linage of renown ceramists, the glorious oatcake, fearsome flying machines and the only other free living primates in Europa.

Much to be proud about and at the height of its renown the clerks, traders and councillors sang out loudly about this productive land and its peoples, taking the wonderful pots as far as Paris and sending its iron and steel far over seas. But, the story goes, they wanted more. They dreamed big dreams of federation and expansion. So came the day when some wise people withdrew and did some long, hard thinking; not stopping, except for tea breaks, until the Gods delivered to them a vision of prosperity, well being and glory. And the harps rang out, as out from the conclave came the councillors crying ‘ Vis Unita Fortior’; they had foreseen that the future lay in uniting the six towns, in one place called the ‘Town of Stoke’. A place with one heart instead of many.

So did the new town thrive and grow, taking its rightful place on the noble stage   of industrialisation and yet a heavy shadow was moving over this now a city, Stoke on Trent, or the Potteries as was. And in the counting houses the clerks and councillors had a fear whose name was Recession, the Dragon of Misfortune. This foul beast was lurking, crouching overhead on a cloud of noxious gases called discouragement, depression and distrust. Oh dear. The concerned, caring, and increasingly overworked councillors and advisors knew it was coming. They could feel it in their water, the itch before the sting. But a least now they are strong, a whole instead of parts and they know that united strength is power, so surely the new noble ‘Stoke’ is fortified enough to withstand the Awful Dragon with its dreadful fumes and hideous aftereffects. Name them: ill health, poverty, and ignorance.

But my friends the wise men were worried: the secretarial Fates had written the battle into the diary and they needed a new plan, so they scoured the land for Planners to make a scheme with clever tactics to stave off Recession. And the new plan was indeed righteous and it was just. It was good, it was bold, it was audacious, it involved taming a unicorn. 

The unicorn that is called Regeneration has magic protective powers and was to stand sentinel over Stoke while it made ready for battle with that Slayer of Souls, the merciless and gaseous Dragon. Came the day, the wise men and leaders of Stoke made ready their army and called the wizards that practise Arts in the Public Realm to march at its flank and so, clothed in the armour that is street furniture and armed with signage, Stoke moved her troops into the fray. Oh my how the battle raged! Hear in your minds ear the clanking of tubular seating against the ivory of the dragoons teeth; imagine the sparks of creativity from the wands of the wizards as they conjure, in the name of their arts, colour, music, humour, invention and new perspectives, and picture if you can the final throes of the Dragons efforts, as it was brought down by a well aimed sign pointing out the way to the cultural quarter.

 Traders, councillors, planners, footballers and leaders stood side by side with their people, who stalwart and heroic as ever, stood up for the Six Towns, overcame and retrained the Dragon, who is now the symbol of transition, new beginnings and harmonious living.

This is the noble tale that I heard told at the table of the high halls of 4 Broad Street, Stoke.

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