A lot of things were discussed at full Council last Thursday and I could blog about many of them, but I thought I’d blog today on something that was just a bit different.
Petitions are often submitted to full Council, and the petitioner can request they are looked at by a relevant commitee ““ usually the petitions are to do with straight forward issues ““ parking problems, potential loss of services, or potentially controversial new services in particular areas ““ however we had one yesterday that was a suggestion, and specifically a suggestion to erect statues of two internationally-renowned heavy rock musicians somewhere in the City.
A suggestion has wafted around that this was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek petition, not really serious and a bit of a joke. Well, maybe it is, but I actually think it’s quite a good idea. The musicians in question ““ Slash, former lead guitarist with Guns’n’Roses and latterly of Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver, and Lemmy from Motorhead ““ both spent their early years in the City, and have large respective followings. Yes, another “Ëœfamous son’ of the Potteries, Robbie Williams, was not mentioned, and I have heard it said that this exclusion means it wasn’t a “Ëœserious suggestion’, but I don’t think we should discount it just because someone didn’t come with a fully costed, planned out idea ““ big oaks from little acorns grow!
We have a great many names who could feature in a Walk of Fame or a Park of Celebration, with names such as Gertie Gitana, Havergal Brian, Nick Hancock, Arnold Bennett alongside Lemmy and Slash, all celebrating the many creative individuals from Stoke-on-Trent who have gone on to feature in the popular culture of their time. It doesn’t have to be with formal statues, and would be an ideal use for one of the many smaller parks in the City.
No doubt some naysayer somewhere will doubt the pull of such a park ““ but in my defence, I hold up the famous Paris cemetery of Pere Lachaise, which is a tourist destination in its own right. Who would ever think a graveyard would attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, who wander between the graves of Jim Morrison, Noel Coward and George Bizet, amongst many many others? The cemetery was originally considered too far from the centre of Paris to be viable, but careful marketing began to attract people to the handful of “Ëœcelebrity’ graves; it now has over 330,000 “Ëœresidents’. Perhaps a bit morbid, but I think it illustates the influence of popular culture.
Of course, as a City we are not great at celebrating our own. Perhaps this should be a twin project, with a Park of Pottery also? So little celebrates the many great potters that gave us our name, and with the exception of the Potteries Museum, nowhere can you see the greats all together. Maybe we should just have a Park of the Potteries, celebrating all who have passed this way and gone on to make a great mark on the world? We could then include Reginald Mitchell, Oliver Lodge and others? A few statues of famous Potteries folk already exist around the City ““ Josiah Wedgwood outside Stoke Station, Sir Stanley Matthews in the City Centre and also outside the Britannia Stadium ““ and there is no reason why these can’t remain in their landmark positions, but a site that brought them altogether would really be something special and also probably a UK-first.
But then, perhaps our lack of properly celebrating the people who have made Stoke-on-Trent the place it is, is the problem? We are so unassuming that we think “Ëœour’ heroes don’t really figure on the national stage ““ and our history is “Ëœnothing special’, despite people like Matthew Rice of Emma Bridgewater highlighting that despite the industries that made places like Hull and Northampton, nowhere else is known by its main trade as we are ““ the Potteries.
We need to learn to love our City again ““ don’t get me wrong, I’m not pretending everything in the garden is rosy, but we have a lot of great things going for us and we need to see them as the opportunity they are, as other cities have done (look at Liverpool and the Albert Docks for a similar rags to riches story). We are blessed with fantastic parks all across the City, and now a suggestion that we celebrate two sons of Stoke who have made it (albeit that Slash and Lemmy may have only spent less than 20 years between them here, in their formative year). Let’s put the two together, take the opportunity, who knows where it might lead?