British Ceramics Biennial launch night

I’ve got to be honest, being invited along to spend a Friday evening in a disused factory would not normally sound like the most appealing start to my weekend. But this was not any disused factory, this was the original Spode factory – the birthplace of English fine bone china, and this was not any ordinary Friday evening event, this was the launch night of the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) – a six week festival showcasing a celebration of ceramics right in the heart of the World Capital of Ceramics between 28 September to 10 November 2013.

Our evening began however, not at the original Spode factory, but at another BCB venue, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in the City Centre, to see the preview of BCB’s Award 2013. Award 2013 showcases a broad range of work currently being produced by some of the UK’s finest ceramicists. This year, 22 artists have been selected from over 170 applications in a bid to be awarded the £10,000 winners prize, and I don’t envy whoever has the impossible task of picking a winner from this magnificently unique collection of pieces.

Award 2013

Award 2013

Having been wowed by the genius on display in the Award 2013 exhibition, we made the short journey down through the University Quarter to the original Spode factory in Stoke, which, from the moment we stepped foot into the factory grounds, displayed a magical energetic rebirth as we were transported into a magenta-lit ceramicists dream. Inside the original Spode factory in the vast China Hall space, the magic continued with breathtakingly creative displays and installations and innovative ideas.

The Original Spode Factory

The Original Spode Factory

Inside the Original Spode Factory

Inside the Original Spode Factory

Throughout the six-week festival, the original Spode factory hosts a number of exhibitions, installation and projects.

Fresh 2013 looks at the work of new graduates breaking through as they make the transition from learning to earning.

Fresh 2013

Fresh 2013

The Pavilions are four temporary structures that create unique spaces within which the public can engage with the artist’ response to their experience of the ceramic industry.

The Pavilions

The Pavilions

Explore 2013 has challenged four artists and one group of nine artists to make responses to the Spode site and Stoke-on-Trent itself. These range from an archaeological dig, through ceramic slip graffiti and the re-utilising of discarded moulds, to a poet’s lyric narrative.

BCB Design: Tableware is a strand of the festival that looks at limited edition and bespoke table-ware, created specifically to cater for a special dining experience. Case studies provide illustration of trends and trials that are currently underway and indicate one direction of travel for the ceramic industry, the creation and the capture of niche markets.

BCB Design: Tableware

BCB Design: Tableware

A particular highlight to me was the thought-provoking Made in China by Clare Twomey which comprises eighty red porcelain vases each 1.5m tall produced in Jingdezhen in China. Seventy nine have been decorated at the Chinese factory using transfers, one has been decorated at Royal Crown Derby using 18-carat gold. The latter took longer to complete than the 21 days it took to complete and deliver the seventy-nine. This placement unpicks “some of the issues faced by globalisation and outsourcing of production, and questioning the way in which value is assigned. The work also examines what else is lost, over and above jobs and knowledge, and where there might be the possibility of complementarity as opposed to opposition.”

Made in China

Made in China

One of the great things about BCB is that it is not a festival that is dominated by the “Please do not touch” sign. There are lots of opportunities throughout the six weeks for visitors to have a go, get messy, have fun, and get creative through various workshops and the BCB Family Weekenders.

Have a go!

Have a go!

The free festival is also really easy to get around with the main venues being in three locations – the original Spode factory in Stoke, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Airspace Gallery in the City Centre, and Burslem for the Burslem Weekend in mid-October. The main Stoke-on-Trent railway station is 5 minutes’ walk from the original Spode factory site, and regular buses link it with the City Centre.

There simply was not enough time to take in all of the offerings on Friday evening and so it will be with great pleasure that I will have to return to this historic pottery site once again to see it all. And I urge you to join me – you will not be disappointed!

For more information about the British Ceramics Biennial visit http://www.visitstoke.co.uk/bcb.aspx

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Blood Brothers at The Regent Theatre

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Blood Brothers is one of my favourite musicals and when I found out it was playing locally at The Regent, I jumped at the chance.

The showing I booked for was the one at 7:30pm on a weekday evening, however there are showings at this time at the weekend and also a matinee performance, depending on which show you are going to see.

I arrived at the city centre early so I had chance to have a meal and a drink before the show started. As is advised by the Regent Theatre, I parked on the John Street car park which is a multi storey not too far from the entrance to the theatre. This was a very reasonably priced car park which is open until 11:30pm daily, and costs £3.50 to park until the specified closing time. If you are not travelling by car however, there are plenty of bus routes coming into the city centre (including from Stoke-on-Trent station if you are arriving by train), and the Regent is a short walk from the bus station.

We decided to go for a meal at the rustic Italian Restaurant Roberto’s in Hanley. This is a great restaurant which is ideal for anyone who is looking for a quiet meal before they see a show at the Regent. It is ideally located just a few minutes walk from the theatre and offers a perfect pre-theatre meal, offering 2 course’s for £9.50 or 3 courses for £14.99.

After our meal, we decided to go for a quick drink at the bar inside the Regent Theatre, offering a selection of soft and alcoholic drinks. The ambience is great in the Regent, offering a buzzing and busy environment (especially when there is a big theatre show playing) with nice decor and very smartly dressed and polite staff who are always willing to help. We then brought a programme specific to Blood Brothers, and made our way into the theatre, where a staff member was waiting at the door to assist us in finding our seats.

The show was brilliant of course, with a fifteen minute interval splitting up the two acts and finished at approximately 10.30pm, which I found was in plenty of time prior to the closing of the car park. Overall, I would say the Regent Theatre is a great venue, showing a variety of hit shows throughout the year.

Some other shows that are coming up at the Regent in the near future are:

  • The Rocky Horror Show;
  • Priscilla Queen of the Desert;
  • Cats;
  • West Side Story

Stoke-on-Trent not only has the Regent Theatre, there is also a number of other theatres in the city including the The New Vic Theatre, which is a unique layout of theatre-in-the-round which shows a selection of plays, musicals concerts and more. There is also the Victoria Hall, a concert hall showing a variety of music concerts, comedians and wrestling events. The Mitchell Arts Centre is a much loved theatre space in the city which hosts a wide range of Arts and Cultural facilities to the community of Stoke-on-Trent.

To book tickets for events at any of the above theatres, either pop in or contact the Tourist Information Centre, based in the Victoria Hall or by telephone on 01782 236000. For a full listing of theatre events, visit our ‘What’s on’ page on www.visitstoke.co.uk

Tour Series returns to Stoke-on-Trent City Centre

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Another chance to see some of the UK’s best cyclists comes to Stoke-on-Trent on Tuesday the 21st of May 2013. Come down to the city centre and see the likes of cyclists Steven Burke and Ed Clancy, who were members of the men’s team pursuit squad that won Gold at the Olympics last summer!

Commencing at the Potteries Shopping Centre in the city centre, this 1.2km Tour Series Circuit will take to the streets of Stoke-on-Trent City Centre between 1.00pm and 9.00pm.  

As well as this exciting event, Britain’s leading women’s cycle race series, the Johnson Health Tech GP will begin its opening round.

Visit www.visitstoke.co.uk for more information

Pedal power in The Potteries

Elite cyclists return to Stoke-on-Trent this summer as the city will host the grand final of the 2012 Halfords Tour Series as part of a spectacular final day of racing that will also see Britain’s ten leading teams go head-to-head in an exciting team time trial event on Thursday 14th June.

The Tour of Britain

Later in the year, The Tour of Britain is returning to Stoke-on-Trent on Thursday 13th September! Over 2,000 metres of climbing await riders on Stage Five, starting from Stoke-on-Trent’s Trentham Estate and finishing once again in the City Centre.

www.visitstoke.co.uk

Mouth watering Italian market

Stoke-on-Trent city centre will be hosting an Italian food market next week from Wednesday 16 May through to Saturday 19 May, 9am to 5pm each day. Offering a wide variety of Italian products including Italian bread, olive oil, olives, nuts, cheese, salads, dried fruites,  Arrancini, calzone, Italian biscuits, pastries, cannoli, and much more…

Italian market

For more events, check out our What’s On section by clicking here.

Olympic torch lights up Staffordshire

There will be an action packed evening celebration here in Stoke-on-Trent as part of the official London 2012 Torch Relay on Weds 30 May 2012. The following morning on Thurs 31 May the Torch leaves the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery at 7am to go onto its next destination.

Olympic Torch Relay

This once in a lifetime event will see the Olympic flame carried through the streets of Stoke-on-Trent, one of 66 official evening celebration sites at locations across the UK.

Click here for more information about how to get tickets for the evening event show.

Did you know that Stoke-on-Trent is only an hour and a half on the train from London, Euston so why not try and make time to come and visit here during the London Olympics. Come and see gold in Stoke-on-Trent – the unique Staffordshire Hoard, the most valuable Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found. www.visitstoke.co.uk

Titanic events

This April is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s infamous maiden voyage. The ocean liner was skippered by Potteries born Captain Edward Smith.  To mark the centenary there are various events happening in the city.Titanic

You can follow the Titanic Trail around the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery to discover a glimpse in to the story of the most famous ship in history. 

During National Science Week on Saturday 17 March there is a special event for children Titanic Science also at the museum, that will investigate the science of water and ice.

Victoria Hall is hosting a Captain Smith’s Command Performance on Saturday 14 April and on the actual anniversary of the ship sinking, 15 April,  there will be a Titanic Memorial Day at the Mitchell Arts Centre.