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Philip Hardaker and Andy Edwards

Pottery workers commemorated at Burslem School of Art

Local artists Philip Hardaker and Andy Edwards have created a commemorative art installation to celebrate the lives of pottery workers across the city.

Joan Walley, Patron of Haywood Sixth Form Academy, said: “Before Geoff Bagnall retired from CATU – the Ceramic and Allied Trades Union (which went on to become Unity and then merged with the GMB trade union), he wanted a lasting memorial to the pottery workers of the city. The union agreed to commission a piece of artwork to celebrate the contribution that pottery workers have made and continue to make to the city. The intention was always for this piece of art to be in Burslem, as the ‘Mother Town’ of the Potteries.

“I’m very pleased that at a time when we are working on our bid to become the City of Culture, we have one more manifestation of the talent of the area. It’s also a celebration of the talent of the workers who gave so much of their craft to the city’s ceramics industry. The iconic piece of artwork that Philip and Andy have created will be housed in the foyer of the Burslem School of Art. As the home to Haywood Sixth Form Academy, this is a perfect setting to help young people to understand the skills of their forefathers.”

Alan Christian, Chief Operating Officer, City Learning Trust, said: “We are supporting, in both word and deed, the City of Culture bid, working with partners to make art and culture accessible to our students and our wider communities. Housing this artwork at Haywood Sixth Form Academy is just one example of this.”

Philip Hardaker said: “This is a really important piece of work that celebrates the lives of pottery workers and is a memorial to those who lost their lives in the ceramics industry.

“Andy and I have been working on it for about a year and a half now. It’s based on a ceramic trade union banner that used to be carried on marches. You can see the industrial skyline, Chatterley Whittfield, the Angel of Burslem, the scales of balance and there’s a very important female figure to represent the contribution from women, whose influence on the ceramics industry has historically been under-represented. We’ve also used some script to highlight the different roles that people had – from saggar makers bottom knockers to thimble pickers, mould maker, mould runners, paintresses and firers.

“We’re really pleased that City Learning Trust has invited us to install the artwork at Haywood Sixth Form Academy, in the foyer of the Burslem School of Art. It’s an interactive piece, with a pole that you can hold so you look like you’re on an old union march, so we’re hoping that the students will enjoy it and the people of Stoke-on-Trent will come to see it.”

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Joan Walley

Former Stoke-on-Trent North MP