Potteries Heritage Society helped co-ordinate this year's Heritage Open Days (HODs) festival which attracted over 18,000 visitors over the two long weekends in September. We organised three events, at the first of which we invited Heritage Network members to share our Soapbox at the Spode Rose Garden to promote thier events. Our other projects continuted with an ambitious event leading over 30 cyclist in a tour that took in 20 of the remaining bottle ovens in the city, and concluded the following weekend with Stories from Historic Narrowboats at Etruria, in partnership with Etruria Boat Group - the event featuring the revealed voices of extraordinary women involved in canal haulage.
On a bright Spring morning, in a room at Middleport Pottery where Great Pottery Throw Down judge Keith Brymer Jones has been known to shed his tears, a group of museum curators, building managers and other enthusiasts launched the Heritage Network for Stoke-on-Trent.
We were delighted to have the City’s Lord Mayor along to lend his seal of approval and
Heritage Open Days’ Manager, Annie Reilly, to reflect on nearly 25 years of events and an exciting future.
Bringing together representatives of the famous names and attractions of The Potteries was no easy task but these heritage practitioners know the strength of the city’s offer, and the chance to collaborate over Heritage Open Days provided the catalyst they needed.
Pottery names such as Wedgwood and Spode, and our well-known attractions - The Potteries Museum in Hanley, Gladstone Pottery, Ford Green Hall and Etruria Industrial Museums - have been throwing open their doors for the national heritage festival for many years. But working together presents opportunities to programme events to avoid them clashing, ensure a good spread of events across the festival, cluster events thematically and geographically and partner up to deliver more innovative events. The Network is bolstered by the involvement of conservation organisations, ‘friends of’ groups, and those who keep our heritage buildings, churches, theatres, parks and historic narrowboats – the city’s iconic bottle ovens and canals looming large in local affections.
This year's Heritage Open Days festival in Stoke-on-Trent will benefit from the Society's support following months of meetings and workshops with the venues, hosts and facilitators that make the City's offer among the best in the country.
Our aim was to get as many heritage groups participating in a diverse programme that spanned the long weekend. The festival, which runs from 7th to 10th September was officially launched at Spode Works on 31st August (see above). Over twenty organisations took part in the planning meetings which began at the end of last year.
This year's leaflet details 26 separate events including those facilitated by our friends at Middlepport Pottery, Etruria Industrial Museum, Stoke Minster, Ceramic City Stories, Ford Green Hall, Spode, Bethesda, and Stoke-on-Trent Museums and Parks. Potteries Heritage Society is directly involved in three separte events. On Thursday 7th September we are teaming up with Etruria Boat Group for Stories From Historic Narrowboats, on Friday 8th PHS's Andy Perkin and Ecologist Nicola Farrin will lead a walk exploring Heritage & Nature in the Potteries, and on Sunday 10th Andy will also the leading a Guided Heritage Canoe Trail from Northwood to Stockton Brook.
A group of Sheffield architecture students have been exploring ways of reimagining Spode Works and its surrounding environment. Studio Temporal Places saw 12 individual students investigate Stoke-On-Trent’s heritage and explore a series of creative possibilities for its future.
The studio’s proposals respond to contemporary issues whilst recognising the significance of the past, engaging strongly with the existing urban fabric of Spode Works and the surrounding Stoke town centre, whilst drawing upon the Potteries’ distinctive sense of place.
The Big Works, a thesis project carried out by Joe Ingham, a masters student at the University of Sheffield’s School of Architecture, was directly inspired by conversations with members of Potteries Heritage Society. A full article and pictures detailing Joe's work can be found here.
Our Revealing Voices project is gathering momentum with our fully-equipped studio open in Stoke, regular deliveries of digitised audio files and a team of regular audio archeologists.
Following our official launch at the Brampton Museum in November, we have been assembling the equipment needed for the project, including computers, headphones, MP3 players, an audio-visual system and a megaphone. We have also been kitting out the studio with furniture and storage facilities.
Meanwhile, over 400 reel-to-reel tapes were taken to Greatbear in Bristol to be digitised. The company has been busy over the past few months, loading up tapes and producing the digital formats that are used for archiving and listening so that they can be catalogued. Batches of the resulting files are regularly dispatched back to us on flash drives. Over two-thirds of the files have now been returned.