As a devout Brit, I always love hearing about new towns and cities to visit in the UK, which is why it gives me great pleasure to direct your attention to this week’s Through The Eyes Of A Local interview about Stoke-on-Trent.
1. Could you tell us a little about yourself and where you come from?
My name is Jill, and I’m a travel blogger from Stoke-on-Trent. Stoke-on-Trent is a city of about 300,000 people in the Centre of England, about halfway between Birmingham and Manchester. It’s very much a working city, and has been the heart of the British pottery industry since the 17th century. Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Minton and Spode all began in the city and were founded by local men.
2. How long have you lived in Stoke-on-Trent? And what brought you here?
I’m originally from the London suburbs, but moved to Stoke-on-Trent 20 years ago when I got my first full-time job, and have never left! At the time it was the job that was most important, but it’s definitely the people who have kept me here all these years, and now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
3. What do you love most about your hometown?
The pottery industry is definitely the biggest draw. Much of the manufacture has moved abroad in recent decades to countries where overheads are cheaper, but pottery is still the heartbeat of the city. Museums like the Gladstone Pottery Museum and the World of Wedgwood are fabulous at keeping the history alive. You can even paint your very own piece of pottery!
We are also very central to some fantastic areas of natural beauty, especially the Peak District which is on the doorstep, as well as the beautiful canals and the Cheshire countryside to the North and West. We have 4 regional airports a short drive away, so it’s a great place to be.
And finally, the arts scene in Stoke-on-Trent is fantastic. We have a professional theatre which receives most of the touring West End shows, and a world-class concert hall. We also have a very good local theatre and music scene. There are plenty of opportunities to catch a show or concert while you’re here!
4. Is there anything that frustrates or annoys you when tourists visit Stoke-on-Trent?
Stoke-on-Trent doesn’t have the most glamorous reputation – it’s an industrial city, and is often criticised by people who have never been here. But we have an incredible history and warm and friendly people. It’s not all about the fancy buildings!
5. In your opinion, which places should be at the top of any visitor’s wishlist in and around your hometown?
The Gladstone Pottery Museum and World of Wedgwood are worth a visit, as is Emma Bridgewater, another pottery manufacturer. The Trentham Estate has a beautiful lake and formal parkland, and the Trentham Monkey Forest is just next door and allows you to get up close to Barbary Macaques!
Outside the city is the Peak District with some incredible walking, as well as Alton Towers, arguably the UK’s biggest theme park and a massive draw for visitors from outside the area. And just to the North of the city is Little Moreton Hall, an original Tudor manor house, which is a National Trust property and is fascinating to visit for a peep into life in the 16th century. It’s one of my favourite spots to take visitors.
6. What foods must visitors eat whilst in Stoke-on-Trent?
Stoke-on-Trent is rightly famous for its oatcakes, which are oat-based pancakes, which are very specific to the area. Travel just a few miles outside the city and you won’t find them! Staffordshire oatcakes are savoury and are normally grilled with melted cheese, and even bacon, sausage, mushroom or anything else you fancy. They’re not remotely healthy, but they taste so good!
7. What’s your favourite word in your local language? Why? What does it mean?
The accent of Stoke-on-Trent (known as the Potteries accent) is very specific to the city, and there are plenty of dialect terms. One of my favourites is “mither”, which means to worry: “Stop mithering, it’ll be fine!”. Another favourite is “over Bill’s mother’s”, which is an expression used when there is a black storm cloud brewing in the distance: “Ooh, it’s a bit black over Bill’s mother’s!”
But the classic Potteries’ expression is “duck”, which is used as an endearment for men and women alike. “Eh up duck!” is the standard greeting if you really want to get in on the Stoke-on-Trent spirit! But you definitely need the local accent to be able to pull it off without sounding ridiculous; as a former southerner I stay well clear!
8. What advice would you give to somebody moving to Stoke-on-Trent from another country?
The accent here can take some getting used to; it took me several years before I stopped struggling to understand some people! And the city can still be very traditional; many people have stayed close to home and still live a short drive away from their parents and childhood friends. It can be intimidating at times to see the history that people share, but after 20 years here I am definitely part of that history myself and find myself joining in the reminiscences! And although people have deep roots, they are quick to welcome outsiders, so you will feel a part of things very quickly.
9. If tourists were to know one thing about Stoke-on-Trent’s culture, what should that be?
Stoke-on-Trent is a hardworking city, and has been for many centuries. If you want to experience real England and the heritage of the industrial Midlands, come and see us. There’s so much to see and learn!
Thanks Jill! We’ve loved getting to know you and Stoke-on-Trent better!
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