A summer of culture in Stoke-on-Trent

Stoke-on-Trent and The Potteries will be celebrating a hot summer season of summer culture, thanks to the arrival of the 2019 British Ceramics Biennial in the city, a redefined “V&A Collection at World of Wedgwood”, and a summer season marking the tenth anniversary of the discovery of The Staffordshire Hoard.

The Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found, comprising over 4,000 items. Archaeologists believe it was buried during the 7th century, at a time when the region was part of the Kingdom of Mercia.

Jointly acquired by the Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Birmingham City Council after it was discovered by a metal detectorist in 2009, near Lichfield, it is almost entirely made up of war gear, especially sword fittings. Over 1,000 pieces are from a single, ornate helmet; and it is widely regarded as the grandest example to have been found from the period, and would have been fit for a king.

More than four million people have visited the exhibition at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent during the past decade; and to mark the anniversary the display area has been completely refreshed, with a replica of the Anglo-Saxon helmet now taking pride of place at the entrance.

The V&A and World of Wedgwood, meanwhile, recently unveiled a new future for the historic Wedgwood Collection. The collection was original saved for the nation and gifted to the V&A five years ago. It is comprised of over 80,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts and photographs and is one of the most important industrial collections in the world forming a unique record of over 260 years of British ceramic production.

Since 2014 the collection has been on long-term loan to Wedgwood Museum. But a new partnership between the two institutions has cemented this important national collection’s future in Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent.

The Wedgwood Museum has duly been renamed ‘V&A Collection at World of Wedgwood’, and a new Chief Curator – appointed by the V&A – will devise and lead a reimagined public programme that will celebrate the diversity, creativity and depth of the collection, within its local context of North Staffordshire and The Potteries, the world’s capital of ceramics.

Stoking-up the summer of culture in Stoke-on-Trent, the British Ceramics Biennial will return to the six towns of The Potteries, between September 7 and October 13.

Once back in its spiritual home, the Biennial will 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 capital of ceramics.

The festival will take place in established venues and non-traditional spaces across the city including the atmospheric China Hall at the original Spode factory site, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Middleport Pottery and World of Wedgwood.

At its very heart, the post-industrial setting of the original Spode factory site in the heart of the city is once again be the main hub of the festival, bringing together 13 exhibitions in the China Hall, alongside live workshop areas where visitors can explore and experience clay for themselves, and an exchange place for buying work and sharing ideas and inspiration.

A free weekend festival bus will run between the different venues, enabling visitors to get around the city to experience the full programme and enjoy many of the cultural attractions of the ceramic city.

The AWARD exhibition at the China Hall in Spode will this year offer a £10,000 prize – the largest single prize for ceramics in the UK – to one of the ten ceramic artists in Britain chosen to exhibit at the Biennial this year.

The event as a whole is mostly free to visit.  For full opening times for all venues, check the BCB website https://www.britishceramicsbiennial.com.

The summer events coincide with Stoke-on-Trent’s launch of a new campaign in which all visitors to venues, events and tourist attractions across The Potteries are being asked to share their experiences and photographs across social media channels using the hashtag #MyStokeStory. Further information can be found at www.mystokestory.co.uk.

All tourist information, meanwhile, can be found at www.visitstoke.co.uk.

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