He\’s whining that the Wedgewood Museum might be broken up and sold off. Fair enough to whine about that (he is the MP for the area and arguing that everyone else must stump up for your constituents/constituency is part of the job description) but the argument he uses is nonsense.
Ask Britain’s leading ceramics designer, Emma Bridgewater, why she came to Stoke-on-Trent to build her world-renowned business, and she will tell you it’s all about the history and culture of the city. The craftmanship, design and ingenuity that turned six towns in north Staffordshire into the famous Potteries remains apparent some 250 years on.
Over the past 30 years, just as County Durham has erased its pit-heads, Manchester its cotton mills and Birmingham its workshops, so the Potteries has cleared its pot-banks and bottle-kilns. But this disdain must end: if we want to re-balance the British economy and wean ourselves off financial services, we should begin with some pride in our industrial history. Not least because the ceramics sector is booming again. After years of job losses and out-sourcing, new companies and young creatives are back at work in north Staffs inspired by the city’s great heritage.
For Stoke, the dispersal of the Wedgwood collection would be an act of cultural vandalism. Its demise would be to strike at the very meaning of the Potteries – the ethos that still attracts, in Emma Bridgewater and others, our modern Wedgwoods.
No, it\’s not the museum which leads to this: flogging off the stock to collectors would make no damn difference at all.
The reason that you open a new pottery in The Potteries is the same reason you open a weird metals business in Rotherham or Sheffield, a chlorine based business in Hartlepool or a wholesale financial one in The City.
What economists call \”clustering\”. Or if you prefer, the actual history of the place, not the representation of it on museum shelves. That all the various specialist suppliers you might want are there: for that\’s where all their other customers are. The workforce is there, trained and available.
For example, holding a job hiring fair for people who can paint the glaze onto the pots in Bridgewater won\’t get you all that many people. Do it in Stoke and you\’ll have a queue around the block three hours before you open.
It\’s the accumulated physical and human capital that makes Stoke the place to put a pottery: not the existence or otherwise of a museum dedicated to it.