Lidice Shall Live

Last week I had the great pleasure in working with a group of exchange students from the Czech town of Bustehrad. I met with them at the YMCA in Hanley where we broadcast an hour long radio show which was listened to by their school friends back home.

Not many people will have heard of Bustehrad, if I were to say that is the town just north of Lidice then I guess a few more people will know about the area and the strong historical links between Lidice and Stoke-on-Trent. (Sir) Barnet Stross a Doctor who practiced in Shelton led the campaign to rebuild Lidice after hearing about the town being destroyed under direct orders from Hitler.

Continue reading

A People’s Wreath for Lidice

Lidice Shall Live posterAlan Gerrard of Theartbay in Fenton is the driving force behind the Lidice campaign in Stoke-on-Trent and is trying to raise £500 to place a People’s Wreath on the mass grave of the 173 men of Lidice  who were executed on June 10th 1942.

The Lidice atrocity was Hitlers response to Reichs-protektor SS Obergruppenfuhrer – Reinherd Heydrich being mortally wounded in an operation by Czechoslovak parachutists on May 27 1942. Following a directive from Hitler himself it was decided that there be an act of vengeance for the death of “an outstanding man of the German nation”, and for this they chose the people of Lidice.

Continue reading

Lidice Campaign Must Live Long In Stoke-on-Trent

One Monday evening, March 7th, Stoke-on-Trent witnessed regeneration in action at a landmark prizegiving event at The Victoria Hall, Hanley.

The pilot,inaugural, UK stage of the Lidice International Children’s Art Competition was a great success. 38 prizes, 10 winners and 28 merit awards, were presented to delighted children from across this city.

The children, after receiving a presentation on the topic, had produced artwork in celebration of the work of Sir Barnett Stross and the workers of Stoke-on-Trent in
rebuilding Lidice, the Czech village wiped out by the Nazis in 1942.

Around 400 inspired pieces were exhibited in all, definitely a fitting tribute to a story anyone with an interest in Stoke-on-Trent can take justifiable pride.

Broadcast simultaneously was the BBC’s Inside Out programme, narrated by Nick Hancock, explaining, in depth, the relationship between Stoke-on-Trent and Lidice, and the man Sir Barnett Stross – a man never appeared in the list of “Citizen of the Century” nominees nor currently mentioned once in The Potteries Museum.

Hopefully, this programme has done much to spread the
inspirational message further round the Midlands region and has helped fill in the generational gap of the many, many tens of thousands of Stoke-on-Trent born adults who’ve completely missed out on this story.

Stoke-on-Trent is the home of the “Lidice Shall Live” campaign. The people of Lidice feel with passion that the people of Stoke-on-Trent should be a part of their lives.

Barnett Stross and our working ancestors have presented
Stoke-on-Trent with a powerful promotional legacy. If we are wise enough to grab the opportunity with the full commitment it deserves and promote our links in exciting and imaginative ways this legacy can do much to change, for
the better, the way Stoke-on-Trent is perceived. It can help raise its profile, which can only be a good thing when attracting public & private sector investment and visitors.

Continuation of the project in schools will
ensure Stoke-on-Trent’s rightful place as the UK hub for the International Art Competition, do much to raise aspirations and send out a strong anti rascist message.

Most people agree that Stoke-on-Trent’s generated some amazing people and is responsible for some remarkable feats. Unfortunately, it’s seldomly presented to the outside world or its own young people.

The Lidice “story” is one of the great examples of a city’s people joined together in a common, courageous, selfless cause. It’s an impressive story that must be told.

Finally, it’s ironic that while much of the heritage around us disappears, we unlock a potentially priceless gift from the working class people of 70 years
ago and Sir Barnett Stross, a “great” but, sadly, formerly unknown man.

Let’s not waste this opportunity.

Stoke-on-Trent Welcomes Historic Visitors From Lidice

Lord Mayor Denver Tolley yesterday officially received visitors from Lidice as part of a growing cultural exchange between the Czechoslovakian village and Stoke-on-Trent.

Three members of the Lidice Art Gallery paid a visit to Stoke-on-Trent, and stopped off at places around the city like the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, and Gladstone Pottery Museum.

They rounded off their trip to the Potteries by visiting the Lord Mayor’s Parlour, and having a tour of the council chamber at the Civic Centre in Stoke.

”We enjoyed it a lot, we met a lot of great people, and gained great inspiration to take back with us. Our heads are full of new ideas and projects we can work on with Stoke-on-Trent in the future.

“This was my first visit to England – it is a lovely place and I have seen many new things.”

“This is about a new generation of people learning about Stoke-on-Trent and Lidice’s past – we want people to understand exactly what the links are and how we can form a stronger bond with Lidice. We didn’t need to sell the city to them when they were here – they were delighted to see Stoke-on-Trent and we were more than pleased to welcome them.”

Councillor Lyth, along with councillors Brian Ward and Mick Bell, met with the group as they visited the Civic Centre. Accompanying them were Alan and Cheryl Gerrard, owners of TheArtBay gallery in Fenton, who have been involved in promoting the city’s links with Lidice over the past year.

”The main purpose of today was to show them what Stoke-on-Trent is all about,

“We have been going into schools, telling young people about how Lidice and Stoke’s past were linked, the story of Sir Barnett Stross and what we can do in the future to make the links stronger.

“We are trying to get young people to take part in the Lidice Gallery’s International Children’s Art Competition, where young people from all over the world can have their work displayed in the gallery in the heart of the town. We would exhibit it here first and then it would go over to Lidice to enter the competition. Given the relationship between the two places, we want to encourage as many young people as possible to take part in the competition.”

“I’d like to think linking closer with Lidice will raise aspirations amongst young people, telling them the story and the role of people of Stoke-on-Trent in rebuilding Lidice in 1942. These were people from Stoke-on-Trent, not Birmingham, London, or Liverpool, and we should be celebrating their work by forging a closer relationship with Lidice.

“I got involved because I’m really interested in the regeneration of the city, it’s important Stoke-on-Trent grows and promotes itself, and makes the best use of all the links it has across the world.”

“It’s really inspired me to do more to strengthen the bond between Stoke and Lidice. We are in a similar industrial area as Stoke back in Czechoslovakia and it’s interesting to see how it has developed. It’s great that the heritage of the city has been preserved and it is something we would like to do as well.”
“They were very interested in the history of Stoke-on-Trent and were particularly impressed by the painting done by local artist Rob Pointon we have in the council chamber showing a meeting held earlier this year.

“There were also lots of things in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour like past chains of office and gifts presented to previous Lord Mayor’s that they would never see anywhere else. It’s important we keep the link with Lidice because we need to keep hold of a valuable part of the city’s past and also keeping exchanging ideas in the future.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Meeting 21/10 – Lidice, Loans and Battles!

The Full Council Meeting opened with the sad news that Cllr Randy Conteh has had to step down as Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s representative on the Police Authority due to health reasons.

Randy is facing a very serious operation on his brain in the not too distant future and has been advised to slow his pace of life down. Anyone who knows Randy would confirm that he gives 100% as a councillor and as a member of the Police Authority.

I have spoken to Randy today [Friday] and he has asked me to pass on his thanks to all who have contacted him with messages of support which include fellow members of the Police Authority, high ranking Police Officers, Council Colleagues and members of the public.

Randy wants everyone to join him for the Soul Night that he has organised in aid of The Firefighters charity and the Lodge Road Park play area on October 30th. There are still tickets available for the event which includes a host of top DJ’s and as is typical for Randy he was more concerned about pushing this event than talking about the difficulties he will face in the future.

I’m sure that you will join with Pits n Pots and send your best wishes to a top bloke and fine servant of our city. We look forward to speedy recovery and to seeing Cllr Conteh back on the beat as soon as is possible.

The City Council has voted Cllr Brian Ward as their replacement for Cllr Conteh which came as a surprise to me given the tremendous amount of collaborative work with the Police undertaken by Cllr Roy Naylor.

Councillor Ward will have to juggle his cabinet work with his group leaders and ward work which makes his proposal even stranger.

For once there was some good news to come out of the meeting yesterday.

The City Council voted unanimously to accept a recommendation to explore links with the Czech Republic town of Lidice.

The Council accepted the following recommendations:

1. Members agree to work with the Lidice Gallery to explore the feasibility of an exhibition
and associated programme of work and an EU funding bid to support this.
2. That Members approve a commitment of £10,000 as seed funding towards such a
funding bid to be made from existing resources.

The historic links between Stoke-on-Trent and Lidice were brought into the public arena by Alan & Cheryl Gerrard of the Art Bay Gallery in Fenton.
Alan & Cheryl put a massive amount of effort into bring the story of Sir Barnett Stross to the current Stoke-on-Trent public and in particular the youngsters of our city.
Lidice is a village in the Czech Republic just north-west of Prague. It is built on the site
of a previous village of the same name which was completely destroyed by German
forces in reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in the spring of 1942. All
192 men over 16 years of age from the village were murdered on the spot by the
Germans and the rest of the population were sent to Nazi concentration camps where
many women and nearly all the children were killed.
In September 1942, coal miners in Stoke-on-Trent, led by local Councillor Barnett
Stross, founded the organisation Lidice Shall Live to raise funds for the rebuilding of the
village after the war.
Barnett Stross was elected to Stoke-on-Trent City Council in 1937 and served until
1952 (during the later part of this period he was an Alderman). At the 1945 general
election Barnett Stross was elected as Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent’s Hanley division.
He received a Knighthood in the New Years’ Honours list of 1964.
Sir Barnett Stross KBE was honoured by the Czechoslovak government for this work
with the White Lion of Czechoslovakia, and became Chair of the British-Czechoslovakia
Society. He stood down at the 1966 general election, and died just over a year later.

Cllr Mick Salih [Community Voice] moved the motion to accept the recommendations and in doing so he said that it was a pleasure to move what was a positive story for the city. He said that it was vital to explore cultural and economic links with towns across Europe as it put our city on the map. He told the chamber that out of the tragedy of what one group of people could do to another back in 1942 some good could come from it with this linking arrangement.

Cllr Mike Barnes [Community Voice] said that he supported this motion whole-heartedly. He told the chamber that the story of Lidice highlighted that even out of extreme adversity success can be born. He hit out at Cllr Hazel Lyth[CIA] for doing nothing until the deadline for acceptance had nearly passed and only then did she act when he had made phone calls to the officers. He said that Cabinet members had to be more motivated than that.

Cllr Joy Garner [Labour] said that she was happy to support this motion and that it was important to remember the past and to never forget. She informed the chamber that there are 2 street in her ward that were named after Sir Barnett Stross. She said that through the Art side of this link he would never be forgotten.

Cllr Brian Ward [CIG] said that he too was happy to support this kinking arrangement. He said that £10,000 was a small price to pay.

I’m really pleased that Alan & Cheryl were present in the chamber to hear the debate and to see the motion passed with no one voting against. I was disappointed that no councillor mentioned the hard work that they put into this linking arrangement as I know it was not plain sailing.

Message to Councillors: Members of the public who work tirelessly for the city in which they live in and love, deserve your support and praise occasionally and is something that doesn’t cost any money!

Cllr Mervin Smith [Labour] moved the following motion in relation to a loan from the City Council to Galmor Investment SA:

That, subject as hereinafter provided, Stoke-on-Trent City Council provides a Term Loan
Facility of up to £1.2 million to Galmor Investment SA repayable over 10 years for the
refurbishment of the Angel Business Centre, Westport Road, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.
That the Director of Regeneration (in consultation with the Director of Central Services) is
authorised to negotiate and agree the final terms of the loan. Such terms to be
substantially in the form of the draft Provisional Offer of Loan Facilities attached.

Cllr Smith said this loan would enable the company to redevelop to former Wade Pottery site in Burslem. Upon completion it is expected that 168 new jobs would be created for the city. He gave assurances to all sides of the chamber that there would be a comprehensive period in which thorough Due Diligence would take place.

This process would cost in the region of £20,000 which would be paid by the company even if the loan arrangement did not commence should the due diligence highlight something untoward.

Cllr Smith reassured elected members that this loan agreement was viable and that Galmor had undertaken work for companies such as HSBC, NHS North Staffs & The Highways Agency.

The details of the loan are as follows:

4.1. A copy of the proposed Provisional Offer of Loan Facilities is attached to this report.
The key terms of which are set out below:-
Purpose of Loan development of a mixed use scheme
Facility Amount £1,000,000
Repayment Term 120 months from practical completion of the building works
Drawdown in instalments of not less than £250,000 against agreed
drawdown profile and on satisfactory completion of agreed
milestones. Final drawdown on practical completion of the
building works.
Security a charge will be required against the development and a
floating charge will be required over Dransfield’s remaining
Interest Fixed at 6% above the base lending rate for the time being
of the Co-operative Bank Plc
Default Interest Rate Lending Rate plus 5%
4.2. Drawdown of the loan would be in instalments of not less than £250,000 against an
agreed drawdown profile and on satisfactory completion of agreed milestones, with the
final drawdown being made on practical completion of the building works.
4.3. If Stoke-on-Trent City Council agree to provide the required loan facility, the loan will be
repayable by Dransfield over 10 years in 120 monthly instalments in accordance with a
repayment profile which reflects Dransfield’s cash flow forecast.
4.4. Interest will be applied to the loan at 6% per annum above base rate (i.e., a commercial
rate). The rate will be fixed at the date the loan agreement is signed. Therefore State
Aid will not be an issue. In addition, a monthly monitoring fee would be charged to this
4.5. In advance of the emerging City Council policy for providing assistance to private
companies and due to the absence of a dedicated budget this matter is required to be
considered by full Council Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s role in providing this loan
would be as a “Ëœlender of last resort’ as all opportunities for securing borrowing from a
commercial bank and other external funding opportunities have been exhausted.

The report detail and the assurances given by officers were commended by Cllrs Salih & Kent-Baguley [Community Voice] and that they were happy to support the motion.

Cllr Kent ““Baguley said that he celebrated this king of initiative by the City Council as it sent out a different message to that of the banks that we as a city are open for business unlike them.

Cllr Pervez [Labour] said that it was important that this deal go ahead. He said that this showed that the council was demonstrating that it could go forward with complete member involvement. He reminded the chamber that the government were relying on private sector jobs in the wake of the announcement that 500,000 public sector job losses over the coming few years. He said that Stoke-on-Trent City Council could lead the way and that this arrangement showed that it was serious about regenerating the city and the Mother Town of Burslem.

Cllrs Barnes, Ward and Shotton all spoke in favour of the motion.

Cllr Shotton [Labour] suggested that 50% of the cost of the Due Diligence should be paid up front by the company as it would be a devil of a job to get the whole amount if the agreement collapsed as a result. He said that the 168 jobs that this development created would help to support around 700 children of the families employed.

The vote was carried unanimously.

Last but by no means least , as the meeting was drawing to a close a political argument broke out between members of the Community Voice group and Council Leader Mohammed Pervez [Labour] and Deputy Leader Ross Irving [CIA].

Cllr Pervez was questioned by Cllr Barnes abouyt what he was doing to oppose the government cuts imposed on LA’s as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review on Wednesday.

Cllr Pervez said that he was working very hard and had written to Local Goverment Minister Eric Pickles to make a special case for the City of Stoke-on-Trent. He also said that he would be consulting with unions and he would carry on talking to residents to gauge their concerns about unavoidable cuts. He did confirm that there would be some loss of service and that his job was now more difficult as the government announced cuts of 28.4% over the next 4 years as opposed to the expected 25% cut.

Cllr Salih rounded on the Council Leader and said that he needed to do more than just write letters. He said that
Cllr Pervez ought to join up with other Labour led authorities and to take direct action as they had in France.

Cllr Barnes entered the debate and remonstrated with the Council Leader and said that the cuts were a devastating attack on the poor and most vulnerable in our city.

Cllr Pervez argued that he was already talking with other Labour led authorities and that they were working together to reduce the impact of the cuts and to maximise any opportunity that may arise to gain extra funding. He went on to attack the Community Voice for petty headline grabbing and he said that he would not take advice from former disgruntled Labour members.

Cllr Irving [CIA] defended his party’s position of implementing widespread cuts and said that to do nothing would almost certainly confine the country to bankruptcy. He said that the opposition remarks were a throwback to 1984. He attacked the Community Voice councillors for having nothing positive to contribute and he said that the public would not support the type of action that we have seen in France.

Cllr Pervez said that he would try his best to bring private sector jobs by working with businesses like Galmor which would get people off benefits an into work.
He finished by attacking the negativity of the Community Voice councillors and their endless search for cheap headlines.

“We will show you how it’s done” ““ he said in his closing statement.

Well Pervez let’s hope you are right ““ your city awaits…..

Sir Barnett Stross & Lidice Must Be Recognised In Stoke-on-Trent

Today’s society places a huge emphasis on education. The last Labour Government coined the famous phrase, education, education, education. They say you are never too old too learn and those words are so, so true in light of a recent story told to me by Alan & Cheryl Gerrard of Fenton’s The Art Bay Gallery.

The story told of the heroic, unselfish and compassionate actions of a Stoke-on-Trent GP during World War 2.

Sir Barnett Stross was born in Poland on Christmas Day 1899 to Jewish parents. He and his family moved to England in 1905 and settled in Leeds.

Barnett Stross was educated and attended University in the City and he qualified as a Doctor in 1926.

He moved south to set up practice in the Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent and treated mainly pottery workers and their families. He became a fierce campaigner for compensation payments for workers blighted by the industrial diseases pneumoconiosis and silicosis.

It was while he was working as a GP in Shelton that Stross was alerted to and outraged by the plight of a village in the Czech Republic just north-west of Prague called Lidice.

Heinrich Himmler, commander of the SS, head of the Gestapo, ordered the complete destruction of Lidice in revenge for the killing of an high ranking German officer.

192 men over 16 years of age from the village were murdered on the spot by the Germans, the rest of the population were sent to Nazi concentration camps where many women and nearly all the children were killed.

The atrocity caused widespread outrage among the mining communities of North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

Barnett Stross was instrumental in this and he coined the phrase “ËœLidice Shall Live” in direct contradiction to Hitler’s orders that “Lidice Would Die Forever’.

The campaign to rebuild Lidice was born and at a mass meeting in the Victoria Hall, Hanley, three months later the Lidice Shall Live Movement was formally.

The people of Lidice have never forgot the role played by Sir Barnett Stross, the miners of North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. In the Lidice Memorial Museum, his work is commemorated and attracts visitors from around the world.

Barnett Stross went on to serve the Potteries for many years. He was elected MP for Stoke-on-Trent’s Hanley Division in 1945. He served in parliament for 21 years and was often called on to speak on medical issues. He was very anti smoking and still campaigned on Industrial disease. He was Knighted in 1964 and he died in 1967.

Sir Barnett Stross was never considered for the Citizen of the Century to mark the 100 year Federation of the 6 Towns.

All may not be lost however, we do have an opportunity to recognise this truly inspirational Stoke-on-Trent character.

As Alan & Cheryl point out on their Facebook Group Page [link below],

From the Sir. Barnett Stross, Twinning Lidice & Stoke-on-Trent Group

The people of Lidice always remember the role played by Sir. Barnett Stross and the miners of North Staffordshire. In Lidice Stross’s name is well known, place names being named after him. A Lidice Memorial Museum attracts visitors from across the globe.

The creators of this group believe a twinning of Lidice with Stoke-on-Trent would be highly advantageous for Stoke-on-Trent, economically, socially and culturally as it would open many profile raising and regenerative opportunities for the city. Here are some:

It would give the young people of Stoke-on-Trent a sense of pride in their ancestry. What finer example could there be of the kind-hearted spirit of the people of Stoke-on-Trent in action.

The significance of the role of ordinary, working class people in rebuilding Lidice after that terrible event would attract UK interest (and possibly global interest come 2012) – therefore doing much to improve the perceptions of Stoke-on-Trent viz-a-viz other cities in the UK and help attract hitherto unwilling investors and visitors to Stoke-on-Trent.

Organised properly with correct consultation with the communities of Stoke-on-Trent and its private sector, it could help reduce parochialism and disaffection, give the people of Stoke-on-Trent a sense of “place” and empathy with a community thousands of miles away. Especially as it was largely due to the workers of this city that the “Lidice Shall Live” campaign grew.

The Lidice Memorial Museum contains a wealth of artworks produced by world renowned artists. Already the museum have indicated their willingness to lend
artifacts related to the event towards a commemorative exhibition in 2012. They have indicated a desire to come to Stoke-on-Trent to find out more about Sir. Barnett Stross and the people of Stoke-on-Trent in readiness for their exhibition next year to celebrate the 111th anniversary of the birth of Barnett Stross.

No other city in The UK holds such an emotional tie to the events perpetrated by The SS. Although a National Holocaust Museum exists in Newark, Sherwood Forest, it is very possible that a properly fitted, permanent exhibition to commemorate the destruction of, and celebrate the rebuilding of, Lidice would attract many, many visitors to Stoke-on-Trent each year. This is even more likely if close ties are formed with The National Holocaust Museum and The National Arboretum in Cannock.

The Lidice Memorial Museum holds a Children’s Art Competition which attracts entries from all over the world. This year they’ve received over 25,000 entrants. I believe the museum would support and market an annual Children’s Art Competition which mirrored that of Lidice’s. Stoke-on-Trent could conceivably, therefore, receive work from children across the globe and prizes could include trips to Stoke-on-Trent to visit its attractions.

Sir. Barnett Stross. presented/opened the world’s largest rose garden at Lidice as a symbol of commemoration and rebirth. Stoke-on-Trent could find somewhere to site the largest rose garden in the UK to commemorate the life of Barnett Stross, Hugh Leese and the other Stoke-on-Trent people that started the campaign. Again this could be a massive a media event and the rose garden, if promoted properly, could become an attraction for many visitors to Stoke-on-Trent

There are, of course, many, many more potential benefits that could accrue into the long term.

If you agree that a twinning, whether that be formal or informal, of Stoke-on-Trent with Lidice would do much to raise the profile of Stoke-on-Trent and help in its regeneration and help improve non-domicile perceptions of Stoke-on-Trent, please invite people to join this group, or write to your councillor, or write to The Sentinel. Like others on Regenerate Stoke, we firmly believe that Stoke-on-Trent should start aiming higher. Part of that can be making the very most of any significant role it has previously made in world affairs.[/quote]

So, the gauntlet has been laid down to our City Council and the Cabinet Member with responsibility Hazel Lyth. This could be a massive good news story for Stoke-on-Trent. In these times of the “Ëœcut, cut, cut’ culture this story could be a flashing beacon amidst all the doom.

Pits n Pots completely support the effort of Alan & Cheryl Gerrard of The Art Bay Gallery, Fenton in their efforts to commemorate the act of humanity of Sir Barnett Stross. We also support the call for a formal twinning agreement with the town of Lidice.

We ask all Pits n Pots readers to join Alan & Cheryl’s Facebook Group and we ask that all readers leave a message of support on the comments section of this article.

We urge Council Leader Pervez, his Cabinet, all other City Councillors and CEO John van de Laarschot to action this request as a matter of urgency.

We firmly believe the City Council are doing their best in these most difficult times, but request that Alan & Cheryl’s efforts be recognised with positive action.

Please do not mistake their frustration for anger. This City needs progressive citizens like Alan & Cheryl to combat the negativity of the extreme views held in this City.

Sir Barnett Stross was a Jew. This year Stoke-on-Trent voted to formally adopt a Holocaust Memorial Day, what better way would there be of sending a clear message to those who use politics to deny and denounce the Holocaust, that Stoke-on-Trent will never forget those atrocities.

Stoke-on-Trent should be proud of Citizens like Sir Barnett Stross and for those, like me, who did not know about this fantastic individual, let’s get the message out eh?