Artists Philip Hardaker and Andy Edwards unveil the artwork at The Burslem School of Art

Artists, authorities, businesses and educators will bring Burslem School of Art back to its former glory

Local artists Philip Hardaker and Andy Edwards will officially unveil their commemorative art installation in the foyer of The Burslem School of Art building on Friday 17th March.

The artwork is a solid ceramic union banner, celebrating the lives of pottery workers across the city, commemorating those who lost their lives in the industry and paying tribute to the women of the potteries.

Philip Hardaker said: “Andy and I worked together on this piece for about a year and a half and installed it just before Christmas.

“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 wanted to give it an official launch and to invite people to come and see it in The Burslem School of Art building, as we’re also working with local community groups, businesses and the City Learning Trust to help raise funds to restore the original art room, which is where I started out as a student.”

Joan Walley, Patron of Haywood Sixth Form Academy, said: “The creative work of women pottery workers has gone unrecognized for too long, so all credit to the GMB trade Union and the Ceramic And Allied Trade Union (who instigated the commission) for righting this wrong.

“It was our local pottery workers who were the backbone of the industry and this celebration of their creativity and labour means there is now a lasting tribute in the mother town.”

In its heyday the magnificent art room, with its huge windows and perfect lighting for artwork, hosted the Burslem School of Art’s prestigious alumni, including Clarice Cliff, Susie Cooper and William Moorcroft.

Taken on last year by Haywood Sixth Form Academy, part of the City Learning Trust, the Grade II listed Burslem School of Art building has already undergone a £1.5 million regeneration and refurbishment, supported by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The work on the building has included repairs to the roof, windows and walls to make it weathertight; mechanical and electrical equipment has been repaired and serviced; data and electrical cabling has been upgraded; and state-of-the art digital technology has been installed, in order to provide 10 teaching spaces with four dedicated subject rooms for Haywood Sixth Form Academy students. The City Learning Trust also makes facilities available for community use out of school hours and in the holidays and the Burslem School of Art Trust now has its own dedicated rooms in the refurbished building.

Alan Christian, our Chief Operating Officer, said: “We’ve already repaired the leaks, removed the wet and dry rot, and replaced the affected roof timbers in the art rooms. However, we still need to fix the holes in the ceilings, using traditional techniques that are sympathetic to the Grade II listing.

“If we can raise £50,000 we can carry out that work, refurbish the two art rooms and bring them back into use again for local artists.

“Burslem is in a city that was built by artisans and professionals working together and it feels as though we’re forging those links again.”

Now, local businesses, community groups, artists, The City Learning Trust, the Burslem School of Art Trust and local authorities are all working together to raise funds to restore the historic art room to its former glory.

The Burslem School of Art Trust has developed and delivered many arts events, projects and activities over the years, and now a series of exhibitions and events are planned during the summer to help raise funds to restore the art rooms.

Neil Dawson, Trustee of The Burslem School of Art Trust, said: “The unveiling of this excellent and imaginative local piece of work by Andy and Phil also marks a wonderful start to an exciting partnership between the Trust and Haywood Sixth Form Academy.

“We hope the series of exhibitions and events which are planned at the Burslem School of Art Building will provide more public access to the arts, and also help to raise the vital funds to restore the art room in this historic building which is an essential part of our local heritage.”

Amanda Bromley, founder of Barewall Art Gallery in Burslem, said: “I think it’s really important to support and help ongoing investment into Burslem and to help bring its art history to the forefront.”

If you would like to find out more about forthcoming events at the Burslem School of Art or to support the fundraising efforts, please register as a ‘friend of the Burslem School of Art’ on the Burslem School of Art Trust Facebook Page.

Read The Sentinel article on the unveiling here.

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The City Learning Trust is set to break new ground by putting lifelong education at the heart of how we adapt locally to a changing world. Its vision, ambition and commitment to pupils will drive its success.

Joan Walley

Former Stoke-on-Trent North MP