Martin Gooding || July 10th


So between the time I wrote the first article and me starting this one something happened. Something that will send unpredictable ripples through everything we do. 

We left the EU.

Stoke on Trent voted hugely in favour of leaving. 

Stoke receives a fair bit of funding from the EU and a fair amount of that funds excellent arts and culture programmes, some of which I've personally worked on.

So at first I felt angry, betrayed, that such a huge percentage of the city wanted to leave, cutting off EU funding streams to the city at such a vital time in our metamorphosis. At a time when we need all the help we can get. Do the people of Stoke not appreciate what we do? The more I think about it I don't think it was the smartest decision to make but I'm going to try to avoid too much of the political stuff, I'm not here to tell you that you should have voted to stay in the EU. The referendum is over we made our beds so we must lie in them, I'm here to talk about Stoke and the future of the city.

We have far more important things to think about right now, we have a city to rebuild. We've got a City of Culture bid to prepare for, festivals to plan and shows to promote. So we best get onto the next step. How do we move forward from this? How do we make sure that we maintain this momentum?How do we overcome the obstacles that have once again been cast in our way? 

I suppose we need to look at those that were very public in the area when promoting the idea of leaving the EU, people like Anthony Bamford, Chairman of JCB who suggested that "We could exist on our own - peacefully and sensibly" and even went as far as sending out emails to his employees urging them to vote leave. Anthony Bamford, if you genuinely believe in growth in this country, viable economic growth that not only feeds a struggling economy but brings a better quality of life to residents, look no further than the artists, the musicians, the potters, the filmmakers and the writers. See we were planning on using some of that EU funding to do exactly those things. Seeing as you were so adamant that we could stand on our own feet, maybe you'd be interested in making a little investment. Now don't worry I know what you're thinking, those bloody lefties asking for money again, but we've got a plan and it relies very heavily on the belief that we can make Britain great again, this seemed to be a big priority in the Leave camp. 

See to have a truly Great Britain we need culture, culture is one of Britain's largest economies, we are known world wide for our music, film and art. What would Britain be if we'd never had The Beatles or The Pistols? Grayson Perry or Francis Bacon? Stoppard or Orwell? The Royal Shakespeare Company or Welfare State International? Monty Python or East is East?

To compete with our neighbours we need those holding onto that cash to take a little leap of faith with us. Think about it like this you've just walked into a casino with a pile of cash, you step up to the roulette wheel and all the numbers are red, but they still offer you 2:1, what do you do? You make a bloody big bet and hope for the best that half the wheel doesn't magically turn black the minute it's spun. 

Midsummer Wakes Carnival

Midsummer Wakes Carnival

If we were to look at, for example, the Manchester Day Parade just forty minutes up the road organised each year by Walk the Plank now funded almost entirely through Manchester City Council and why? Because it attracts "...Over 70,000 spectators generating an estimated £1.35 million in direct economic spend in the city that wouldn’t have happened if the parade was not taking place" Big cultural events, parades, carnivals, circuses, outdoor theatre all help fuel hospitality businesses and draw the public back into our towns and city centres. This is what we need can you help us to provide it? 

If the big businesses in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire truly believe in growth in the region it's time for you start investing more in the true future of the city, it's artists, musicians and creators. It's all well and good donating to save historical sites and to keep historical pottery in the city but what we need is support to start telling new stories of Stoke-on-Trent, to put Stoke on Trent back on the map. 

Maybe it's unfair to single out one man in this article, this isn't a personal attack on Anthony Bamford or JCB, this is a call to every possible investor, every funding organisation, every government body and local councillor, now is the time, for not only those who live and work in the city, for those who have a vested financial interest in the city and it's surroundings to put their money where there mouth's are . Support us and the infrastructure we create will help support the people of Stoke-on-Trent for years to come and not only will be do that we'll do it with a bloody big smile on our face, balancing thirty foot above the city centre, juggling Emma Bridgewater mugs while playing Dirty Rotten Souls riffs on a guitar made of willow and tissue paper, while screaming the words to Arnold Bennett novels. 

Dirty Rotten Souls front man Mark Bailey

Dirty Rotten Souls front man Mark Bailey

If anything can carry us through dark days it's the power of art and creativity and culture, it was only yesterday I was talking to David Boyd of Beat Carnival discussing his fight to alter the connotations of the parade traditions in the still hostile, partly segregated streets of Belfast. It was only September last year that I met Art in the Jungle an organisation delivering high level arts workshops in the Calais refugee camps to young men and women that had travelled thousands of miles looking for a better life. Art has the power to change lives and not only in the "bring everyone together and have a nice time" sense in the genuine economic benefits to the city sense. We need to be ready to take a giant leap of faith, the day of reckoning is upon us, we need all the help we can get.