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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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Just do it!

THEY JUST DID IT!   IN ONE WEEK FLAT

Currently in Stoke-on-Trent there is an amazing event taking place (3rd October until 13th December), the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB). The BCB is unique in the UK, bringing together both local and internationally famous names in the ceramics world.

For the latest information go to; http://www.britishceramicsbiennial.com

In Burslem, a small group of artists felt that they had something they could also contribute to this event and got together an impressive list of nationally known and local ceramic artists and created a very impressive exhibition in the glass annexe to Ceramica in the centre of the town.

It is impressive for a few reasons, firstly the wealth of talent that’s displayed (and it’s also for sale, so you could take it home with you too), the work is of extraordinary beauty and creativity; impressive also that, in this particular building, all this can be viewed from outside, so it’s a real 24/7 exhibition; and lastly, impressive because they put the entire thing together from idea to launch event in 1 week!  Thats truly inpressive by anyones standards. Oh, and did I mention it is Impressive!

Here are some of the names of exhibitors;

Local : Alex Shimwell, Ieva Alksne, Angela Munslow, Michelle Saxon, Carole Glover,

Kevin Millward, Phil Hardaker, Karren Shapley, Burslem China painters

National: Brian Holland, Penny Withers, Sarah Villeneau

DIGITAL RADIO – VARSITY – LIVE – THEY’VE DONE IT TOO

Equally impressive ( that’s my ‘word of the week’) is the new digital student-to-student radio station, Varisty Radio. They go live on 9th November at 4.00pm.

The station carries advertising which is remarkably cost effective if you’re looking to reach that audience and Anthony would be delighted to speak to you about it if you’re interested in advertising.

The creators of the station are graduates from non other than our wonderful Staffordshire University, which is seeing a huge increase in students and producing some of the most outstanding innovation and creativity in the UK.

WE’VE JUST DONE IT

Burslem town centre, owing to many factors has seen a huge decline in footfall, and yet, is also growing a very vibrant and active centre of creativity. Creatives from all over the country are setting up in Burslem, drawn by the impressive (that word again!) heritage, and also by the extraordinary networks of creatives in the area who are collaborating, sharing and supporting one another in their endeavours.  It’s a really exciting and fun place to be, there’s always someone around with something useful to share and for so many, who, by the nature of what they do, might be quite isolated; but not in Burslem, they meet, chat, share meals, ideas and resources. Sometimes (allegedly) they go to the pub together too!

Something which might just assist this group and others too, is the new Burslem Market (It hasn’t got a name yet – ideas welcome). A monthly market which will offer really interesting goods and services to attract visitors to the town. Stalls will be situated around the Ceramica glass annexe so be very visible to passing traffic and also adjacent to good parking.

The first (pilot), will take place on Friday 4th December, 10.00am till 3.00pm – don’t miss it.

HE DID JUST DO IT!

I have a client , John, who, having spent his working life as a self-employed plumber, had a heart attack and was forced to stop work for a number of months. During this time he began to think about what he was going to do with the rest of his life. As is sometimes the way with life-changing experiences like this, he began to wonder if he could earn his living doing something he really loved rather than go back to working as a plumber. For over 20years, as a hobby, John has built, restored and repaired classic motorbikes, and in the circle of people who know him for this, become quite an authority and is regularly sought out to solve any problems people are having with their bikes.

After Christmas, this will become John’s new enterprise. He’s also going to be running a bike recovery side to the business so those of you with motorbikes who want a roadside repair, rather than merely being towed to the nearest garage, watch this space – all the details and contact numbers will be posted here for you to access.

Whilst on Annual Leave during last couple of weeks I was fortunate enough to have been invited to take part in an extraordinary event in Burslem Park. On an intermittently sunny Saturday, a group of us gathered to re-create a much painted scene by the French Impressionists – Le dejeuner sur l’herbe.

Seven of us had been supplied with wonderful period costumes courtesy of ST6 Costumes of Burslem. The setting on the sculptured lawns beneath the beautiful trees was magnificent, and since this particular scene when originally painted, often featured a nude central to the picture, we had Becky, a beautiful young life model who, in the interests of public decency, wore very convincing flesh coloured underwear.

The gathering was arranged, some seated, some standing, some lounging. The group of artists, around 15 of them, began their magic. It was a very tranquil experience and most definately the longest I have ever stayed totally still, it was mesmeric. To be aware of the concentrated scrutiny of the artists was a very strange, yet delightful experience.

This particular scene was popular with the impressionists; having been re-created by Edouard Manet in 1863, Claude Monet in 1865 and Paul Cezanne in 1873 and others. Now it has been re-created in Burslem in 2009. For a brief look at some photos of the works follow; http://blurbonline.ning.com/

I believe that it is proposed, at some time in the future to have an exhibition of the paintings from this event. It will, most certainly be worth a visit, not least to show the diversity of the artists and different mediums.

Art again but in another way, yet still within Burslem, is the Barewall project. The first building now showing ever changing window displays of artworks by local artists on its barewindow. It is hoped that this will grow and develop and other buildings will follow with the offer of ‘barewall’ facilities. It’s a wonderful way for work to be displayed, can be utilised to bring empty buildings back to life and create exhibitions that everyone can enjoy. For more information about this project follow; http://www.barewall.co.uk/empty-shop-front-project.asp

ADMIRATION

Some days (all of them this week) leave me in total admiration for Bizfizz clients. They are an incredibly resourceful bunch and are working so hard at making their ideas and skills work for them.

Take Martin; in spite of a disability, produces inspiring and beautiful ironwork in a small forge he has built at the bottom of his garden. He has very realistic expectations of what this will bring him, and his real dream is to be able to sell just enough that he can generate a small weekly income in order that he can come off his benefits. I will be working with him to help find the outlets for his work, (he can make to order too if you’re interested). If you can can help with any suggestions for where he might sell his work, do contact me, this man really deserves a break!

Another client, a young woman who is a Architectural Conservation consultant, has moved to Stoke to be with her partner and is currently seeking work (either as a consultant or in paid employment). This woman has followed every lead imaginable and has been very thorough in her work search even offering her services in a work experience capacity in order to broaden her knowledge.

We hear so much about people who make no effort to find employment (either paid or self-employment) and yet, my experience is that there are some incredibly talented, hard working people out there who stop at little to realise their dreams and for me, it leaves me in total admiration for them, and their efforts.

I’ve been on a bit of a mission recently (the bit that involves stopping suddenly when I see a possible outlet!) to find new galleries for the artists I’m involved with so that they can sell more work. Since I have had this direct involvement in helping people to establish themselves and actually earn a living through what they do, it has raised many interesting questions about art, the public and selling in general. (Note: I use the word Art to encompass painting, ceramics, photography,textiles, metalwork and sculpture)

Many artists are totally phased by ‘selling’, they have little time, some don’t have good, reliable transport and many just don’t have a clue where to start. After all – it isn’t what they do, Art is what they do. There are a few around Burslem at the moment who are on the brink of potential National/International recognition, their work is breathtaking, and yet, they are still relatively unknown outside the local area.

They could of course just  get an agent, and whilst I have nothing against agents in particular, their commissions often leave the artists with little more than if they sold their work locally, and can sometimes restrict the artists through very limiting contracts. I know that agents ‘open doors’ and to some extent that is their worth, to obtain the links and connections that enable the artists to be seen in a much wider market and that’s good.

This all leaves me pondering about whether there might just be a better way.

I’m sure we’ve all noticed that, with the current trends in interior design that many ordinary folks are buying ‘art’ for their homes. The latest trend; those individual flowers on canvas. Interestingly, the large stores, Next, M&S, BHS, John Lewis and others, have been selling ever increasing amounts of this stuff, even Wilkinsons sell it! I wonder if the public are aware that they could have something original for very little more than these mass produced prints.

However, not so good are some of the new outlets I’ve spotted around the country selling (mass produced)  so-called original art, much of this is painted by children (verified by contacts overseas) and little of it carries the FairTrade marks, so I dread to think what they’re being paid and what conditions they work in. Within these outlets there is a heady smell of oil paint, because the paint is still wet! Such is the speed it’s painted, packed and shipped. Interestingly these places don’t call themselves galleries, but they are selling. This should give us a strong message about people, they will buy ‘original work’ if it’s marketed to them in a more user friendly way.

Maybe the public have a problem with places that call themselves ‘galleries’; Places that are perceived as quiet, accessed mostly by particular socio-economic groups, and seen as places where you look at art that only a few can afford to buy. They’re certainly not perceived as friendly, welcoming places.

Whilst I would never endorse the ‘dumbing down’ of anything, including art; art is a universal language that can be appreciated by anyone; art is about life, and those artists who connect with life and their communities in a meaningful way (the Burslem artists are exemplary in this), art becomes a part of the communities life too.

Many of the new galleries opened and run by artists themselves are not perceived as inaccessible to regular folk, but certainly some of the older, more established ones are and yet behind these there are fabulously talented people who are earning very little unless they’re really lucky. Maybe, as it does appear art is going through a bit of a rennaissance at present, it’s time for a new way of selling it and maybe artists need to connect with their buyers  in a different way too.

DANCE, MUSIC

A very enterprising young woman, Michelle, who teaches Street Dance has established her school, EVO DANCE in Birch Terrace, Hanley in the deconsecrated Synagogue. Her studios are really lovely; light, bright and having that very rare commodity around Stoke on Trent, parking outside!

Michelle is seeking people who would like to hire her studio out to other groups, and from my visit, it would seem that they are appropriate for all manner of activities. Given that it’s in a really central location, it’s ideal for people to drop off and pick up, and especially useful for bands, they wouldn’t have to haul their instruments and equipment anywhere. As a rehersal space it’s very versatile, there’s a  pleasant reception/waiting area and a second studio too.

If you know of anyone looking to establish dance classes, workshops or rehersal space, please contact me and I will give you Michelle’s details.

AND FOOTBALL…

Two professional footballers I’m working with, Robin and Shane, are developing a project which will use football as a core attraction to work with young people who have learning and behavioural issues within schools. The youngsters will be taken out, encouraged to develop their skills, train and learn about being part of a team, discover why discipline is important, and the learning will extend to developing knowledge about their overall health and well-being and why that’s so important. A small pilot ran at a local primary school recently and the feedback was excellent, the children involved got a great deal from it in lots of different ways, their comments are being posted onto the website which is in development and I’ll post a link as soon as it’s up and running.

Robin and Shane are two remarkable young men, they recognise how football has changed their lives, what it has given them, and not just in terms of a career, but in developing life skills they so easily may not have gained otherwise. Their backgrounds are really no different to those they are seeking to help, they understand how it may all have been so different; it was through football that they got their opportunities to develop and grow and they’re passionate about giving something back. They have a lot of understanding of the issues that face many youngsters today and feel that, through the project, they can foster sound values and learning through something in which they have professional experience.

If you are connected with a school or a group of youngsters who might benefit from Robin and Shanes project do get in touch.

A few latest activities

Bizfizz clients are a very busy bunch of people, there always seems to be something new and exciting going on and this month is no exception.

One of the latest new businesses is VARSITY RADIO, a student to student online radio station which will be ‘live’ in a couple of months time. Varsity will air music, comment, news and activities, not just locally but nationally, tapping into the latest trends and activities for students everywhere. Varisty is making its base in Burslem, Market Square to be precise, taking the upper floor of a beautiful old building. I will post the link to their website as soon as it’s up and running, (two more Bizfizz clients are helping with that).

If you are interested in collaborating in any way with Varsity, just leave details on this site and they will be forwarded to them directly.

I went to see another client last week that I’ve been working with for a while, this client has an ebay shop (Afuro Hair and Beauty) selling cosmetics for women of colour and also wigs. It was  a range of the wigs I was particularly fascinated by; they’re amazing, way beyond what I imagined. They have a special net base, really fine, and they can be ‘glued’ to your skin. This might sound offputing, but in reality it’s quite simple, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t someone’s own hair. If anyone had problems with hair loss, or were unfortunate enough to have lost their hair following chemotherapy, these might just restore some confidence for people, they certainly are not ‘wig like’.

Back in Burslem, the ever enterprising Glazed Art at The Old Post Office, have a catalogue of events throughout the rest of the year.  Have a look at this;

Friday 7th August 7pm until 9pm BRIDES OF COMEDY. Two great new female comedians and a Pea and Pie supper from Pie Minister.

Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th August 10am until 4pm LISE MOORCROFT and KEVIN MILLWARD, two of our best local ceramicists. Meet them and ask questions.

Friday 9th October 7pm until 9pm RACHEL RIMMER, amazing modern jazz singer plus supper from Pie Minister.

Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th October 10am until 4pm ALAN CLARKE, SARAH MYATT & UGLY FISH.

Friday 11th December 7pm until 9pm CHRISTMAS SPECIAL, includes a Christmas gift for each visitor. Supper from Pie Minister.

Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th December 10am until 4pm LISE MOORCROFT, ALAN CLARKE, SARAH MYATT AND KEVIN MILLWARD

AND, if all that isn’t enough, coming soon – BURLESQUE EVENINGS ceramics are certainly not dull around here!

www.theoldpostofficestudios.co.uk

There are, within Burslem, numerous collaborations going on. The very talented artists under the banner ‘Burslem Arts’, have created a refreshed and exciting gallery in Queen Street. Every month they have a Featured Artist, this month it is Sue Law Webb with her dynamic and diverse art work. This little gallery is staffed entirely by volunteers who do a fantastic job, many of them are also artists, ceramicists, and makers of high quailty craftware and pottery. Do support their work by visiting the shop (and preferably buying something), there is such a variety of work and the ever changing displays means it is regularly being refreshed.

Last week I was fortunate enough to visit a recent exhibition by the hugely talented Rob Pointon, in London. Rob is based in Burslem and has become a well known artist here, often to be found with his easel around Stoke on Trent. Rob has created some of the finest work seen here in recent years and it doesn’t stop at that, together with talented animator Karen Sayle and her BIGredStudio they have created animated paintings and amazing work that is truly worth seeing.

Check out; www.robpointon.co.uk

For the animated paintings; http://blurbonline.ning.com/video/train-track