BBC Trust scales back cuts to BBC local radio

BBC Local Radio LogoThe BBC Trust has announced today that they have scaled back the proposed cuts to BBC Local Radio to around £8m rather than the £15m initially proposed. The BBC had planned to cut the budget for BBC local radio by 14% as part of their Delivering Quality First initiative, but protests from the public and politicians made them review their proposals. Continue reading

BBC Question Time Stoke-on-Trent

BBC Question Time is being broadcast from Stoke-on-Trent this evening.

The panellists are set to include

  • Stoke-on-Trent Central Labour MP Tristram Hunt
  • Conservative MP Claire Perry
  • Lord Wolfson, the chief executive of Next
  • Mehdi Hasan from the New Statesman
  • Constance Briscoe author and barrister

Question time was last in Stoke-on-Trent in October 2008.

Location Stoke-on-Trent

After the success of Soul Boy, the movie that was filmed almost entirely in Stoke-on-Trent you would hope that Stoke-on-Trent City Council would embrace the idea of Location Stoke-on-Trent and try to promote the city to production companies as the ideal location for their productions.

Stoke-on-Trent has quite a history as a filming location, it is not as massive as other cities such as Manchester or Birmingham but from Dr Who to Soul Boy there have been a number of films that have used the city as a location in the past.

The Crown Hotel (Crown & Anchor) in Longton had a starring role in the 1957 film The Smallest Show On Earth, with the railway & Longton bridge (which still has the same coat of paint on it no doubt) featuring heavily in the film alongside Peter Sellers, Virginia McKenna, Sid James and more.

In June 2010 a production company working for the BBC on the show Waterloo Road, approached, amongst others, Stoke-on-Trent City Council to see if there were any suitable locations for them to use for filming series 7 of the popular TV drama starting in January 2011.

A High School in a suburban and green environment with full access required to all areas of the school

A rolling yearly lease for up to 4 years

£600 a week while the production company are on site & £500 a week when they are not.

The production company also asked for additional parking to be made available if they were not able to fit all their vehicles on site at the school location. As well as the school it would be highly likely that other locations around the city would be required, bringing valuable trade in to our city.

Hotels & taxi firms would also benefit from having such a production in the city, after all the cast & crew need accommodation & transport.

There were also employment possibilities for local people, 24 hour security is required for the site, cleaners & extra production staff were also required. Seeing as Staffs Uni has a faculty of Arts Media & Design there would have been some fantastic opportunities for students.

The production company also stated that they have a policy of sourcing as much of the equipment, materials & props locally which would have benefitted local businesses.

I asked the City Council what they had done with the request and had they put any possible sites forward and they were unable to confirm if they had entered in to any dialogue about any possibly suitable locations in the City.

It isn’t possible to say if Stoke-on-Trent would have met the all criteria of the production company or if its proposal would have been successful but as it isn’t ringing any bells within the Civic Centre the chances are we were never in the running.

That said I find it a bit strange that the City Council cannot confirm they corresponded with the production company as Pits n Pots have been given a copy of a Corporate e-bulletin, which is distributed by E-mail to all council staff, the copy we have shows that someone managed to publish the whole letter from the production company in it, so somebody has seen it and done something with it.

Tony wrote a few weeks ago about the Chief Executive drawing on his commercial experience to draw income in to the city and opportunities like getting a large BBC production in to the city for up to 4 years, generating around £30,000 in rental alone cannot be over looked.

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.

The End Of BBC Local Radio?

On Friday news that the BBC was looking at hacking away at their 40 local radio stations started to break. I think I read it first in this piece in the Guardian but since it has been reported pretty much everywhere including the by the BBC itself.

The short story is that the BBC want to save money and one of the ways they are considering to do this is to chop the BBC local radio stations so they have a local breakfast show and early evening (drive time) show with all other content being provided nationally by Radio 5 Live.

The NUJ are saying this could cost 700 jobs nationally, which is bad, but then put some perspective around this and look at Stoke-on-Trent City Council for example which is losing 700 staff in a city of around 240,000 people.

The BBC’s plans would be a blow to quality journalism at the BBC and fly in the face of public commitments to localism and transparency. Local radio programmes are produced by local people for local audiences yet these decisions are being taken far away from communities and behind closed doors

The BBC Local Radio service has already been down graded with regional program sharing. If you look at BBC Radio Stoke right now as I am writing this (22:53 on Saturday) Keith Middleton is on the air, from Shropshire, before him Jim Hawkins also from Shropshire, at midnight it goes to Radio 5 Live until 6am.

So has the damage has already been done? Already costs have been cut, sharing has started so would a bit more make that much difference? Would BBC Radio Midfordshire be any worse off by only having 2 shows a day? Of course there will be a group of people who will have a massive hole in their day because they listen all the time, although I fear this group of people are dying out, quite literally, but would it be so bad?

Although the plans are in their early stages, I don’t see anyone say there won’t be local news or content. I’m sure the BBC don’t plan to not report on anything unless it is of national importance or London centric, or maybe they do? It is quite feasible for the BBC to have regional news rooms, like the Mailbox in Birmingham and local reporters as they do in Stoke and for them to produce news packages that can be run on the end of the national news bulletin, look at BBC TV they have been doing it for years, so why should radio be different? Look at commercial local radio, they are creating news hubs that will centralise the news gathering for a whole region but provide local bulletins for each of the stations.

There was a discussion on the Today Program on Radio 4 on Saturday morning where Professor Gerry Stoker said it is essential to have local media coverage to call peoples attention issues at a local level. Charlie Beckett Director of POLIS cited hyperlocal websites such as Pits n Pots as delivering real accountability when it comes to holding councillors to account, you can listen to the discussion here on the BBC, Today 12 March or in the player below.

Personally, and this will be a surprise to some people both at 6 Towns Radio & the BBC, I would feel let down if BBC Radio Stoke went down to 2 programs a day or worse just became part of BBC Radio West Midlands. I understand the need for change within the organisation and change should be seen as a launch pad to do different things, to push the boundaries. The BBC is one of the few organisations that probably could do the same for less, we all know that it is still gold plated, not Gold Plated like it used to be, but there is an awful lot of fat in the system still.

I strongly believe they could do a lot more, a lot better if they wanted to, but wanting to is one of the barriers that needs to be overcome. If only the BBC mentality of self importance could be broken down and the community and localisam could be put back in to the stations.

Origionally published on Michael Rawlins

Killer Thriller Night As City Library Hosts World Book Night

Night creatures will be calling in to a city library next month to stretch their legs and take part in a Thriller dance class for World Book Night.

The workshop, part of the Dancing for the Games programme, will teach visitors the basic moves of the legendary Michael Jackson routine made famous almost thirty years ago. A World of Dance instructor will be teaching guests how to move like Michael from 4pm onwards.

The dance workshop is just one part of the evening’s spooky events. As darkness falls across the city, the library will be transformed to host the foulest of creatures around the theme of vampires, ghosts and grizzly ghouls.

From 4pm younger visitors will be able to take part in a prize sheet quiz, enjoy the latest Wii games and watch The Little Vampire before taking part in a creepy disco. As the evening continues, adults looking for a thrill of their own can become a vampire slayer in a Buffy themed roll play game run by The Sentinel’s Martin Tideswell.

Between 7.30 and 9 pm the library is also showing episodes from ‘Blood and Bone China’, a new film produced by award-winning director Chris Stone and based on a real-life vampire case which took place in Stoke in the 1970s. Chris will be on hand with stars from the film to talk about the film and answers questions.

“Michael Jackson’s Thriller is one of the best known dance routines and a personal favourite and I’m sure everyone taking part will enjoy learning the moves and emulating the King of Pop. This is, of course, just one of the ghoulish events taking place at the library that evening and as the midnight hour draws closer more and more fantastic and frightening events unfold.

“World Book Night is a great way to show our residents the joys of reading and making it part of our daily lives and this presents us with a wonderful opportunity to show what fantastic resources the City Centre Library has.”

World Book Night represents the most ambitious and far-reaching celebration of adult books and reading ever attempted in the UK and Ireland. Taking place two days after World Book Day, with the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day, the BBC and RTE, one million books will be given away to members of the public across the UK and Ireland.

The library will be open all day until midnight on Saturday March 5, 2011. To find out more information about World Book Night visit

Sam Plank

Local broadcaster Sam Plank died last night.

Reports on Moorlands Radio say Sam lost his battle with cancer and passed away a little after 9pm last night at home with his family around him.

Sam was a well known broadcaster in Stoke-on-Trent having broadcast on BBC Radio Stoke, Signal 2, Focal Radio and latterly Moorlands Radio.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Umbrellas Feature On BBC Watchdog

BBC’s Watchdog Programme to be shown on tonight at 8pm delves into the world of public service waste.

As the new government prepares to cut public spending, the team investigate the most outrageous ways taxpayers’ money is wasted.

And guess what ““ Stoke-on-Trent City Council is on there highlighting the Umbrellas that the Unaligned Councillors complained about and gave to charity instead.