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Rediscovering Spode – #SoT2021

I have made a number of contacts in recent months as I have ventured out from my academic hibernation to explore the cultural landscape that has been blooming on my back door step. I wrote recently about why Stoke-on-Trent is the ideal candidate for City of Culture 2021, and I am fully behind their bid. One site that I have been particularly fascinated in is the Spode factory which is going through some exciting renovations.

Many of the historic ceramics sites in Stoke-on-Trent fell into disuse and disrepair many years ago. Fortunately, there are many people that were not going to allow these icons of the potteries industry to wither away. In some instances these sites have been restored and partly re-purposed, like Wedgewood and Middleport (read about my recent visit to Middleport, home of the Pottery Throw Down, here),  or they have been taken over by new icons of the pottery industry, such as the Emma Bridgewater factory in Hanley.

These sites, while still undergoing some changes and renovations, are the end result of a lot of hard work and dedication from workers and volunteers alike. Spode, however, is at a much earlier stage of this journey. The sprawling factory, based in Stoke, is currently undergoing major work to revitalise the site for new visitors and forge a prosperous future.

Having recently re-opened its doors, the heritage of the site is on display at the visitors centre. Yet, in addition to this, the next few months will see further opening of space to house the museum collection, a new shop, and cafe. These are all just some of the proposed aspects of development in Spode’s future.

While the British Ceramics Biennial have been avid users of the site, the large China Hall acting as the backdrop for the main exhibition of the Festival, other opportunities for artists have also arisen. In collaboration with Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Arts Council England, and the Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art (ACAVA), a large part of the factory site has been converted into artist studios. This has insured a vibrant injection of creative energy as artists and creative businesses are filling up these spaces.

Yet this is just a fraction of the potential space that could be available at the Spode site. As renovations continue there will be a plethora of historic buildings brought back to life and hopefully inhabited by more creative partners and businesses to further enhance the ambience of the site. As news broke this week that Pottery Throw Down judge Keith Brymer Jones is looking at Spode as a potential base for his business, it certainly seems like there is a positive trajectory in this site’s future.

Yet do not wait until all these exciting new changes are in place. There is so much to enjoy already at the site, and as changes are made it will be wonderful to see how things progress. For starters, why not head on down to the Open Studio Event on Sunday 9th April, 11am-4pm. Or keep an eye on the Studio Artists at Spode page for more upcoming events. And for all the latest on the overall progression of the site follow Spode Museum Trust Heritage Centre.

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