The biggest ceramics festival in Britain returns to Stoke-on-Trent between September 11 and October 17 this year.
The seventh edition of the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) festival will once again offer a vibrant, world-class five-week celebration of the art of ceramics, featuring new artist commissions, exhibitions and hands-on events that celebrate the life, character and creativity that ceramics bring to the city.
The former Spode factory site in the heart of Stoke will be transformed and animated by the UK’s leading ceramic artists and emerging talents, many of them taking inspiration from the city’s industrial heritage and transforming tradition in a contemporary way.
And, for the first time, BCB will also curate an online programme of films, tours and events for those unable to visit in person.
This year’s festival highlights include the BCB’s headline exhibition AWARD, which is set to take centre stage against the backdrop of the gloriously post-industrial setting inside Spode China Hall. This snapshot of the contemporary ceramics scene will see 10 of the UK’s most innovative ceramic artists competing for a £5,000 prize; while FRESHbrings together 25 early career ceramic artists.
A newly commissioned body of work exploring the subject of menstruation, created by 2019 AWARD winners Vicky Lindo and Bill Brookes, will sit alongside works created through industry residencies in the city by 2019 Fresh Talent winners Alice Walton, Toni de Jesus, Pam Su and Laura Plant.
An exhibition entitled Stoke Makes Plates is a large-scale installation of 250 plates designed by 120 Stoke-on-Trent residents – from care home residents to people in addiction recovery – commissioned artists, and local ceramics manufacturers drawing inspiration from Stoke’s historic high-street.
US-based writer and artist Jacqueline Bishop will reinterpret the brightly coloured bone china decorative plates used symbolically in Caribbean homes and delves into how they hid a violent history of slavery and colonialism by European countries for History at the Dinner Table.
Major exhibitions in the city’s cultural quarter of Hanley, meanwhile, will include: Neil Brownsword’s solo show at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, which delves into North Staffordshire’s early ceramic industrialisation; and an exhibition at Airspace Gallery exploring clay’s zeitgeist moment.
Beyond the China Hall, Paul Scott’s Gardens of Lyra in The Spode Museum Trust & Heritage Centre celebrates a new Cumbrian Blue(s) tea set, made by Spode for Fortnum & Mason. The festival will also spill over into the Spode Rose Garden with Stoke-on-Tent artist Louise Adams capturing the seasonality of the garden through drawing and painting.
Anyone visiting to Stoke-on-Trent for the festival will also find a full programme of hands-on activities. The BCB’s science lab will inspire everyone of all ages to get involved by making and playing with clay – from plate-making, to experimenting with contemporary processes.
As well as a being an opportunity to show how contemporary artists are using clay to create very contemporary, thought-provoking and often politically charged work, part of the aim of this year’s festival is to bring life back to the city by supporting the artists and local communities and welcoming visitors back to the city.
Photo: Jenny Harper