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Historian Fred Hughes writes....
The clock over the door of Café Bon Appetit stopped at 1.46 precisely. What the significance of this is I do not know. But many clocks stop at odd times. Sometimes a stopped-clock represents an event of historic proportions, say when the World Trade Centre was attacked at 08.46 and 09.03, or at 08.15 as the first atom bomb struck Hiroshima. This one in Hanley’s Pall Mall stopped because it never started. That’s probably because it’s a painted advert that simply says ‘it’s time for coffee’.
“Sometimes it’s very quiet down here,” says café owner Karen Harrison. “I’ve run the sandwich and espresso bar with my husband Ian for four years. Yes we’re in the Cultural Quarter but it seems that it has never taken off as planned. The link to culture you might say has never been made. Shops are going in and out of business all the time. It’s always been hard work for us and the council can be quite unsupportive. A lot of my customers are the crews that come with the theatre productions. The other problem is there seems to be more than enough coffee shops in Hanley – too many probably.”
In the meantime a brand new museum had also been built into this inspiring row. At the time of Federation in 1910 there were four separate museums in Stoke on Trent which were subsequently shut-down and centralised in Pall Mall. This grew to accommodate Stoke on Trent’s central art gallery making Hanley the physical centre for a wide range of educational services and studies. But in 1954 structural defects were discovered in the buildings. And so a new site was found on the former Bell Pottery just down the road in Broad Street. It was here that a new museum and art gallery opened in 1956. Today’s Potteries Museum has been extended into a facility more than six-times larger than the original and is now universally considered to be one of the most popular and highly respected resources in the country.
So, as Hanley continues to evolve, perhaps now’s a good time to observe that culture is only as worthy as our involvement and contributions to it; otherwise it may perish in unvisited byways like Pall Mall.
27 May 2008
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