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The future for Stoke-on-Trent as visitor destination post Covid-19

Paul Williams, Chair of Stoke-on-Trent's Cultural Destinations Partnership will be joining our 'Cultural Cities' discussion next week to speak about how the pottery towns will develop as a tourist attraction post Covid-19.

Paul says that despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, he sees exciting times ahead for Stoke's city centre and quotes the potteries' most famous author, Arnold Bennett: 'any change, even a change for the better is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.'

Even though he believes that historically there has been an inability to develop the Potteries as a thriving destination with a vibrant, competitive city centre, with the competition between the city's six towns for resources, he believes that the city's motto 'united strength is stronger' will prevail.

He cites the contiguous town of Fenton with its array of architectural assets and special charm and says empowering community stakeholders to rediscover their identities with a renewed sense of localism can contribute to the city's wider prosperity.

Paul told Future Cities Forum that while ceramics tourism was the raison d'etre for the 2021 City of Culture Bid that began in 2015, there is a now a lot more work going on joining up cultural attractions with the modern ceramics industry (which works with mobile phone manufacturers among other industrial uses), and with the gaming industry expertise of Staffordshire University to link with town centres, along with the canal network across the six towns of Stoke, Hanley, Burslem, Longton, Tunstall and Fenley.

He also said that being able to use the V&A brand internationally to promote ceramics history and culture - as the V&A owns the Wedgwood Collection now housed at Barlaston - has been hugely important, and is helping with the wider regeneration, including new workspace and homes.

According to Cllr Abi Brown, Leader of Stoke-on-Trent Council, Capital & Centric, the Manchester-based social developer is to create a new 'urban quarter' called the Goods Yard, by Stoke station. This will retain the lower listed tiers of a bonded canal-side warehouse but will redevelop the remaining space around Swift House for a new hotel, workspace and retail with 180 homes as well as a civic space. There is the potential for a water taxi to connect to the Bet365 stadium along the canal.

The council estimates that it will cost between £50 and £75 million to redevelop the whole site and it is not yet known how the work will be funded.

Paul will be joined at Future Cities Forum's debate this week by Birmingham Museums Trust Co-CEO, Zak Mensah, National Museums Liverpool Director Laura Pye, Dr Xavier Bray, Director of the Wallace Collection, London, and Gavin Miller, Director of MICA Architects.


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