Tuesday 26 July 2016

Gardiners Reclamation

Added to the sidebar Web links: Garden Ornaments at Gardiners Reclamation in Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent. If you just want old ceramic chimney pots, there's also the vintage chimney pot shop by Longport train station.

Monday 25 July 2016

Gardeners Journal, from Royal Stafford

15% off when you place an online order for the fine tableware made in Burslem at Royal Stafford. Just use the code 'SUMMER16'. Their Gardeners Journal range seems very suitable for allotment gardeners...

Step Up To Higher Education - new access course for mature students

Interested in getting a university education in Stoke? Staffordshire University has a free "Step Up To Higher Education - University Foundation Certificate" course. On completion, this lets adults access the first year of a degree as mature students.

Those considering this course can now have a drop-in chat on any Wednesday (9.30am to 12 noon) at One Smithfield (the new Council building in Hanley). Or just email them direct on: stepup@staffs.ac.uk

Tuesday 19 July 2016

New allotments site in Biddulph

A new 31-plot allotments site is planned for Biddulph, to partly fill what the council has identified as a need... "for approximately 50 allotments within Biddulph". Given the very large amount of new homes that the Staffordshire Moorlands is set to build over the next decade, I'd guess they'll be needing a lot more allotment plots than that in due course.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Stoke Foodbank

Stoke Foodbank (in Hanley) has launched a "100 Friends" campaign. The volunteers and supporters will each find one person they can encourage to become a 'friend of the Foodbank' and commit to a regular donation. Could your shop / allotment / workplace make a regular donation? More info at: info@stokeontrent.foodbank.org.uk

Monday 11 July 2016

Hartshill Park in 1928

What a total pain the Britain from Above website's payment system is.

How it should work: See the aerial picture I want, send PayPal payment, get instant download.

How it actually works: See the aerial picture I want, send them an email. Wait 36 hours for a reply. Then click on link they give me in their email. Request a licence at that page. Wait for another email, containing a new link. Then purchase on the Web via an infernally complicated and very tiny pop-up VISA box, with microscopic text-entry boxes. (No option for PayPal, of course). Then get another email. Go to a page with a download link... Ugh. After the process failed twice, I just gave up.

Anyway, here's Hartshill Park and its land-use in 1928, shown as the valley-side in the distance...

Monday 4 July 2016

Penkhull Mystery Play

Coming soon, the Penkhull Mystery Play 2016.

About those hordes of EU university students...

Oh dear, there's yet more fudgy Brexit reporting from our local newspaper The Sentinel. This is turning into a regrettable trend at the newspaper — "how might we be affected by Brexit?" articles that are subtly slanted against Brexit...

"In 2015, Keele, Staffordshire and Manchester Metropolitan [MMU, which has a campus at Crewe] universities [together] accepted 315 EU students onto degree courses, who came from outside the UK."

Woah! Over 300 per year! Big, scary number! But it's very misleading of the journalist to include all of MMU's students in Central Manchester. Only a few of MMU's students are actually out on its small Cheshire campus, which is located just over the Staffordshire/Cheshire border near Crewe.

How many are there at the Crewe campus, anyway? Difficult to discover, but I see that the campus allotted only a mere 90 minutes in September 2015 to enrol and register all of its overseas students. The MMU followed this enrolment with an Irish Ceilidh dance, suggesting that most of the new overseas undergraduates were actually from Ireland.

What happens when one looks at just Staffordshire University and Keele University? Well, in February 2016 the very same reporter at The Sentinel newspaper reported that at...

"Keele and Staffordshire [universities], relatively few [applicants from overseas in 2015] were offered undergraduate places. Between them, they accepted 70 EU students from outside the UK and 230 'international' students."

So... just 70 EU students per year. Hardly enough to fill two classrooms.

Consider also that these were accepted students. But how many actually arrived in the UK to take up their place? How many dropped out and went home for good (as many students do) at the end of the first year of their degree?

My guesstimate would thus be a rolling total cohort of around 190 EU undergraduates across Staffordshire University / Keele University / MMU at Crewe, across all three years of their degrees. Probably about 100 of those are from Ireland.

But these EU students will still be able to come here after Brexit, as will those studying for a Masters or a PhD. If current arrangements don't suit then we'll set up some kind of arrangement for them, alongside the new international trade deals. For half of them, we may not even need to do that — on current trends Ireland may well be back in the UK soon after 2020.

If anything, it's possible that Brexit may stimulate overseas students applying for places at Staffordshire University and Keele, something which seems to be sorely needed. Especially if students know that they may be offered a ten-year UK work visa if they get a good 2:1 or 1st class degree classification (we'll need the workers circa 2020, as the UK moves onwards and upwards from being the fifth largest economy in the world). The UK's new trade deals, with other booming places around the world, may also run alongside educational aid. Aid that will allow our universities access to a whole new cohort of overseas students.

Friday 1 July 2016

Wanted: Heritage Gardens

Heritage Open Days: Celebrating the English Garden, 8th-11th September 2016. Register by 1st August 2016. They're signing up venues now, and as well as heritage gardens they are specifically looking for other types:

"green spaces in your area. From formal, prize winning horticultural landscaping, to allotments, pub gardens and community planting projects..."

The fate of ceramics in Stoke

There's an interesting article in The Financial Times today. I won't link to it, because it's behind a very heavy paywall. Mostly it's just a rehash of the news on the Steelite buyout, plus a bit about today's saving of Hudsons. But it also has a very interesting snippet from the British Ceramics Confederation. To summarise it...

   'The UK tableware industry as a whole sold £87m of goods to EU markets in 2015, of which Eire is by far our largest 'EU' market.'

That 'Eire' bit is probably significant in the longer-term, circa 2023. Since Eire may well see itself leaving the EU and joining the UK again. A newly vigorous UK that, unshackled from the dead hand of the EU, will have gone from being the world's fifth biggest economy to the fourth or perhaps even the third biggest.

In the shorter term, let's say that the UK somehow couldn't re-join the Single Market at all after June 2019. That's highly unlikely, but let's say that some crazed Eurocrats from Kamikaziia manage to scupper a trade deal, in the face of huge German and French opposition. That would mean that our goods faced an 8% to 12% trade tariff, in order for us to enter the European markets. Under World Trade Organisation rules, the EU can't stop us selling goods into Europe, only put a certain globally-agreed percentage of tariff on our trade with them.

In that worst-case situation, even that loss would surely be made up for by the lifting of the EU's crippling green regulations (effectively taxes) on the ceramic industry's energy use. Ever-growing taxes which, before the vote, looked set to kill off much of the city's ceramics industry within the next ten years. About two weeks ago The Sentinel reported of Stoke that the new energy rules... "would lead to a drastic fall in profit and the loss of thousands of jobs as the heavy clay industries struggle to meet the financial requirements".

So, worse case: a 9% tariff, but no mega-costs added to the cost of energy needed to make the pots and bricks? Sounds like a sweet deal, for a very energy-intensive industry.

But that's the worst case, and an unlikely one. Much more likely is that we do get a full trade deal with the EU once they calm down, and that it should be firming up by June 2018. In the meanwhile, we'll be set to junk the green energy taxes (which, by the way, will make almost zero difference to CO2 levels). The industry's profits should then be looking very nice, even better than the current good earnings. So I'm wondering if that's why the Americans were so keen to snap up Steelite, and why Hudsons has just been saved?

When we get out of the EU, Stoke-on-Trent's potteries would still have to abide by the world's common-sense materials rules — like, "don't put lead in the pottery glaze for breakfast bowls". But we abide by those rules anyway. That's obvious. Lead and gold might be a touch more expensive, but as for other materials... nearly all of our clay comes via train from Cornwall. News moves fast these days, but last time I looked Cornwall was not applying for EU membership.

As for Chinese dumping of cheap mugs and vases into the UK market, our MP's have long been very concerned about it. So it's obviously a serious and ongoing problem, though I don't follow or understand all the ins-and-outs of it. But it seems logical to hope that we should try to include some anti-dumping measures in our new trade deals with the Far East. If that's not possible, then a newly vigorous UK would just have to have a big public-awareness and marketing campaign from circa Autumn 2018, including bold national-flag labelling of ceramics products. Once we're stepping out, public sentiment will be very strongly on the side of something like that. On current trends, our national Buy British Champion might be named 'Boris'.

Of course I could be wrong. I wrote here after the General Election that the smooth-suited Blairies would likely take back Labour and that the extreme leftists would probably flee into the Green Party. But, as things stand now with Corbyn, it's possible I was only a year astray on that prediction.