The Potteries are stoked for 2021…

A new phrase entered The Potteries’ vocabulary in 2020, during the COVID lockdown.

Aimed, primarily, to encourage people living in-and-around Stoke-on-Trent to experience a #Stokecation during the summer holidays, there are signs that it may have an even wider reach once we can all enjoy staycations again in 2021.

Stoke-on-Trent has worldwide renown as the UK’s capital of ceramics, and includes in its list of top attractions World of Wedgwood and The Trentham Estate.

But there’s a real flying start in store for the destination in 2021, with the city’s famous Spitfire set to be officially unveiled in a stunning new, £6m home, at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Hanley.

Scheduled to be ready some time towards the end of the summer, the glass fronted gallery is being added to the city centre’s Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, so that the iconic plane – based on Reginald Mitchell’s famous design – can become more viewable to the public, as well as inspire generations to come. Featuring glass walls at the front and back, so the public can see the plane lit up at night, the new gallery is set to become one of the area’s top attractions and further add to the city’s cultural heritage. The city is forever linked with the Spitfire thanks to one of its most famous sons, aircraft designer Reginald Mitchell. The Spitfire, manufactured in 1945, is unusual in that it still has most of its original parts.

It’s also the year that will see the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) return to the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent. Back for a seventh time in its spiritual home, between September 11 and October 17, the Biennial will once again present work from the UK’s leading contemporary artists in a series of new exhibitions and special events across the city, embracing the heritage of Stoke-on-Trent as the world capital of ceramics.

But there is so much more to the BCB than simply an every-other-year-exhibition. In addition to being the UK’s premiere contemporary ceramics festival it is also underpinned by a year-round programme of artists’ commissions, education and community engagement.

If “set-jetting” really is a thing, then Stoke-on-Trent is already well-positioned for TV viewers to turn their midweek viewing into a visitor-experience in 2021. Timothy West and Prunella Scales have handed over the lock gate key to Sheila Hancock and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, who are now steering Great Canal Journeys through a new series on Channel Four TV. Relaxing into life at 4mph, the new presenters have appeared on one UK journey so far, and will be returning to the screens again in 2021, when they will be navigating their way through Stoke-on-Trent, amongst other places.

Filming in Stoke-on-Trent has also ‘wrapped’ on a new series of popular Great Pottery Throw Down. Further details will be revealed soon by Channel 4; but, for now, they have already announced that joining Keith Brymer Jones will be new judge Richard Miller, as well as a new host Siobhán McSweeney – known for her role in Derry Girls.

Elsewhere, a little piece of Harry Potter magic has cast its spell in one of Stoke-on-Trent’s famous six towns – thanks to the appearance of a curiously named shop in The Strand, in Longton. Specialising in officially licensed Harry Potter merchandise, Potteries Potions is a new gift and retail store, which recently even received a personal message of support via Twitter from everyone’s favourite Slytherin Tom Felton.

Another quirky reason for planning a visit to The Potteries has been created at Moorland Pottery, which is perhaps best known for its eclectic range of “Stokie Ware” mugs. Now an instantly identifiable brand in the world of ceramics, it has given the company an almost unmatched local identity with the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Not to mention, an oatcake gin – and now, an oatcake tea – that’s offering a far greater audience the chance to experience a truly iconic flavour of The Potteries.

For anyone not already in the know, the oatcake is a local food that is unique to North Staffordshire. Bearing no relation whatsoever to its Scottish counterpart, the Staffordshire Oatcake has the appearance of a moist pancake, or crêpe, and is made (usually from a ‘secret’ recipe) largely from oatmeal and yeast. To some, it’s the ‘oat cuisine’ of The Potteries. To others, it’s the ‘Potteries poppadum’, or ‘clay suzette’!

The Stokie Gin became an overnight sensation when it was first launched at the tail end of 2019; and the Stokie Tea is also now available from the factory shop.

No staycation (or #Stokecation) would be complete, of course, without a suitable range of accommodation for its visitors. And that’s where Stoke-on-Trent is also set to grab a few headlines as we move further into 2021.

From the major refurbishment of an hotel on the site of the 1986 National Garden Festival, to the recent opening of a new £20m ‘Hilton Garden Inn’ and an upcoming Courtyard by Marriott, the range and quality of Stoke-on-Trent’s accommodation is changing dramatically – adding to The Potteries’ reputation as a city-break destination that’s “on the up”.

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