The British Ceramics Biennial began in 2009 as a festival to celebrate the amazing ceramicists working in Stoke on Trent today, and to showcase exhibitions of the best international talent. It proudly describes itself as being ‘fixed in the city’, and is inseparable from Stoke and it’s legacy of pottery production.
FCBS were kindly invited to attend the Biennial architecture day to give a presentation on the ongoing refurbishment of Middleport Pottery – a Grade II* Victorian factory and home of Burleigh Pottery since 1888. Further to describing the project (and some of the challenges of undertaking repair work amongst a live factory environment), we did our best to convey some of the poetics of the site in Burslem, and how the current project honours the amazing legacy of 125 years of continued pottery production. We were also keen to communicate how much we have enjoyed working in Stoke-on-Trent for the last 2 years, alongside such a friendly workforce and passionate client team – as well as getting to grips with the fascinating history of the Burleighware brand.
The 2013 BCB curates arts events throughout the city from it’s base at the old Spode factory, a vast pottery complex dating back to early 19th Century that finally closed it’s doors to production in 2008. The art on display ranges from large graduate exhibitions and built pavilions beneath the amazing cast concrete vaulted ceiling of the China Hall, to numerous site specific installations throughout the network of connected workshops and studios. The final projects of local students is one of the highlights, demonstrating a staggering breadth of creativity that really evidences the growing feeling that Stoke-on-Trent has ‘risen, fallen, and risen again’ (to paraphrase one of the festival’s organisers).
Its great that landlords like the Prince’s Regeneration Trust are showing the confidence to invest in speculative workshop spaces as a part of local projects, and I hope it will encourage many other developers or co-operatives to do likewise. I also hope to see the day when some of the young graduates exhibited at Spode bring their progressive ideas to the historic alleyways and studios we are currently completing at Middleport Pottery.