Wednesday 9 August 2017

Stratfor in Stoke

Ian Morris, an old Stokie, returns to Stoke for the first time since the 1970s...

"The Jolly Potters in Hartshill, where I used to drink myself 40 years ago, was even more revealing. In the late 1970s, the pub was a distinctly dodgy place, where the clientele might be anything but jolly. Now, though, it positively shines. The Jolly Potters' enthusiastic young landlady gave me a tour of its beer garden, children's play area, pizza oven and ice cream maker — all brand new — and poured me a very good pint or two of Bass. ... The customers at the Jolly Potters weren't angry or fearful about globalization; they weren't denouncing Europe, the government or anything else. Their conversations were about lost keys, babies and used cars. No one sounded 'left behind' ... Stoke-on-Trent is not so much hollowing out as it is filling up with contrasts. For the now much more numerous homeless and drug-addicted residents, things are probably grimmer today than they were in the 1970s. For the great majority of the city's population, however, Stoke is more affluent, relaxed and open to the outside world than it used to be."

Yes, that's about right. Not all his comments are so positive, though, and readers who only bother to skim the the first half of the article would get a far grimmer impression of the city...

"On some streets, the police seemed to outnumber the shoppers".

That doesn't sound like Stoke at all, where police are absent expect on the big home match days or sliding by in a few rare police cars. Probably there was a big football match on that day he visited. Might be a bit misleading then, that bare comment, if he knew the police presence was the result of a big football match. Still, he's got a bit further that most fly-by London journalists do. Given that he's with Stratfor, one wonders if the article is part of a quiet 'testing of the waters' ahead of a visit by President Trump to the Brexit heartland in the Autumn.

And one more memory...

"Back in the 1970s, the slope between Hartshill and the main concentration of pottery factories was a gigantic dumping ground, piled high with fragments of misfired bathtubs, plates and roof tiles. One of the first archaeological digs I went on, in fact, was in the dump belonging to the Whieldon factory, where Josiah Wedgwood had been an apprentice in the 1750s. The area has since been remade as Hartshill Park with funds taken from the National Lottery. Well-maintained paths now wind through dense vegetation, opening up every so often onto follies made from abandoned potbanks. It is a delightful, whimsical spot in the middle of the city."

His "follies made from abandoned potbanks" presumably means the old Convent grotto, which the sisters there made above the pools as a stone shrine for a statue of Mary. I'm fairly sure there was never a potbank on Hartshill Park.

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