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Archive for December, 2009

BURSLEM BAZAAR

As most people who know Stoke-on-Trent are aware, Burslem has suffered terribly with the closure of major employers like Royal Doulton. Not so very long ago, thousands of people worked in the town, they shopped and took their leisure there too. With the demise of  Royal Doulton and others the town became desolate, lacking in shops which sold basic provisions and few people made any effort to come to Burslem believing the town to be ‘dead’. Unfortuantely this image has been enhanced by local media with headlines proclaiming the death of the town.

Over the last few years, there has been much activity in new arrivals starting up businesses in Burslem and many of these are in the creative sector. The fabulous hub of creativity that is the live/work units in Queen Street and the tenants of the School of Art, together with the arrival of Glazed Art in the Old Post Office has seen renewed vigour and fresh enthusiasm for the beautiful historic town.

It still remains true however, that much of this activity is still not visible to local residents and it won’t help them buy a  loaf of bread but it is bringing people in and from there it’s possible to begin the process of recreating the town as a good place to live and work.

One of the things to suffer most recently is the open market on Fridays, there now being just one stall on a regular basis selling fruit and veg, and yet, when asked most locals say that a market is the thing  they most want to see flourish.

With this in mind, local entrepreneur Amanda Bromley, who has an award winning Internet business in the town, began looking into the possibility of creating a speciality market in Burslem, which, if successful, might draw more traders to the traditional market and increase the footfall to local shops. With the support of Stoke-on-Trent City Council Markets, it was decided to hold the pilot speciality market on December 4th. With the stalls centered around the glass annexe to Ceramica, it was positioned in a highly visible spot for passing traffic and people getting on and off the local bus.

With 14 stalls selling a wide variety of goods from jewellry to ceramics, the market was very well received. Many locals stopped and chatted, bought items and said how great it was. Lots of people asked ‘when’s the next one?’

Really tasty ceramics

The local primary school, John Baskeyfield have a Young Enterprise group who had made a huge collection a fabulous Christmas Cards which they were selling (and thoroughly enjoying it too) to raise money for a school trip – they sold out! Over 120 cards. They were delighted and through the day they talked to people about their school and what they were trying to achieve.

Christmas cards

Christmas Cards made by local primary school children

Other stalls included Titanic Brewery, promoting their fine ales; there was a stall with gorgeous items made from organic felt; handmade jewellry; Alex Shimwell and his (nearly famous) pots, and so much more. It was a really brilliant event and will hopefully be the start of a regular monthly market in this spot.

If you’d arrived early enough you’d have been lucky enough (did I say lucky?) to see  Mervyn Edwards, local writer and artist dressed as a bottle of  Titanic Ale, Radio Stoke came and did interviews with stall holders and there were mince pies and hot drinks for the helpers.

So many lovely goodies

There'll be a few of these sunk at Christmas

Having heard how successful it was, bookings are now coming through for the next one (they will start in March as a regular monthly event). If you want to book a stall (just £5), contact me and I’ll get you booked in.

FROM BAZAAR TO BIZARRE

Anyone who’s read the ‘About Bizfizz’ section will know that it’s a national project and this week  I hosted a gathering of all the Bizfizz coaches from around the country here, in Burslem  (so many coaches in one place practically qualified for a transport grant!)

They were astonished at what they saw, the amazing buildings, the fabulous people and the heritage. Like so many visitors, found it truly bizarre that for an area supposedly in decline, we have such incredible resources, namely the people and the buildings. They weren’t surpised to hear how many creative people are being drawn to the town and I took them on a tour to meet some of the creatives. Rob Pointon (artist) and Karen Sayle (Animator and photographer) showed them their studio and even gave the coaches a tour of their live/work unit.

It didn’t take much encouragement from me to get them to spend money in the town either, each went away with lovely selections of goodies with which they were delighted. A number of them are already planning their return visit with their families in early Spring.

Although it’s tough for business at present no-matter where they are, and for retailers probably even more difficult  where the footfall has declined so much like Burslem; but we should remember,  when visitors come – they love it, and they return. This is something we should build upon, and we need to support anything which brings the visitors in. This in turn will encourage the new retailers to come to the town, people will open more businesses and the town will grow and thrive. It’s up to each and every one of us to ‘talk it up’. It’s not dead, it’s in the process of re-inventing itself following a long period of change and decline.

It will be fabulous again.

We have the resources, let’s just tell everyone we know to come, and they will come back.

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