Let’s talk about Stoke on Trent….

Sooooo, something a little different on the blog today! Sorry if it’s of little interest to anyone else, but the city I live is a sore subject for me at times and I hate giving it a bashing. I suppose this isn’t even a bashing, just an opinion which I have formed and don’t have another platform the express it on! So, the blog is feeling the brunt and maybe a few people who may be interested (about 1 in 100 of you) can have a  little read and join the debate. I guess over all, this is my response to an article published on the local newspapers website a few months ago and has been an ongoing subject in the area for a while. My local newspaper are also asking for opinions about the subject today so I thought rather than clogging up The Sentinel’s comment boxes with this rather lengthy opinion I’d post it here. It is generally in regards to Stoke on Trent’s city centre bars and clubs and general night life. As I said, it all started a few months ago when a Councillor within the city suggested closing everything at 2am in an attempt to cut down on incidents and anti social behaviours on a Friday and Saturday evening. The theory behind this was that if this number is cut then the more people will be going in to Hanley of an evening…. I beg to differ. 

Shutting bars and clubs in a city centre at 2am is a bad idea. These are my reasons why:
Shutting a drinking establishment is not solving anti social problems, it is simply moving them on. Times have changed since the mid 80’s where drinking at a pub until midnight then taking a quiet taxi home to bed are the done thing at the weekends. Nowadays 2am is often the peak of the night. When people enjoy dancing the most, having a good time and mingling with friends. If people are forced to go home at 2am on a Friday and Saturday evening then I believe they will attempt to source alcohol from other places not which are not staffed with people trained to deal with such clientèle. The Tesco down the road from city centre venues, I feel would suffer the most. As it is a 24 hour store with alcohol on sale through the night the staff should not be put into the position where they are put in potentially threatening situations by refusing to serve alcohol. The store should also not be forced to close during the night as this impacts not only the stores profits but the staffs income also as the store wouldn’t need to employ as many people during the night.
Another impact of the proposed 2am curfew is the bar’s taking a cut in profits too. It’s pretty simple; the bar doesn’t break even, it closes down. Staff lose jobs and yet another empty unit is created in what should be a thriving city centre and yet more people are joining the job seekers queue. Is that what local people want? No.

An argument FOR the 2am closing time was
“The behaviour of idiots creates a bad image and is discouraging people from using theatres and restaurants.” I’m sorry, I am no Thespian although I am a bit of a foodie, but I can’t remember the last time I went for a nice sit down meal at 2am? In fact most places will discontinue service at 10pm which is just in time for people going on a night out in Hanley anyway. Another winning quote from the article was
“Ten thousand fewer people are visiting the city centre at night compared to 10 years ago. Those people have gone missing for a reason.” Well, my dear friend. There’s this little thing going on called a recession at the moment where people don’t quite have as much disposable income to go out for a night up Hanley, and also you will find that apart from the clubs and bars, there’s not really a lot else to do? Also take in to account that it’s much easier to travel to other places at the weekends nowadays, with £1 National Express coaches and y’know cars and such. 
Should I also mention the fact that due to the costs of going out this kind of discourages people? A meal would set a couple back at least £20 per head including drinks on average, I imagine 10 years ago this wouldn’t be quite so pricey, huh. 
I really feel like this councillor and many other big wigs at Stoke on Trent HQ have missed the point entirely with his plight. This city needs to embrace the times and the way society works, not revert back to times gone by attempting to implement changes that may be a quick win solution in their eyes now, but in a few months time it will be the same problems only moved to more residential area’s. According to police reports also, the number of incidents is the highest at one particular bar with the other ones in the area coming nowhere near in the top 10 list of incidents. other businesses should not be made to suffer because one controversial bar cannot be bothered to train their staff properly or employ adequate door staff. It strikes me that a lot of people giving Hanley the bad name are ones who have rarely or even never been on a night in Hanley within the past 5 years or so. And it’s people like that the city can do without. Whilst I will admit, I do feel ‘safer’ in bars and clubs I am familiar with (Revolution, Fat Cat’s and the Sugarmill) I still do not disregard the idea of going somewhere else due to safety, it’s more the music! Places like The Sugarmill who will do something a bit different with their all nighters, are what the city needs. A SELLING POINT. We don’t need a 1984 Big Brother-esque weekend with curfews and the fun police cracking down. Treat people like cattle and you can be sure they will act like it. I feel this is all a bit too familiar with these type of ‘action groups’, they will be a bunch of suits assuming why and what is causing the trouble yet not knowing the facts. I can liken it to the time I was part of a community action group to combat teenage pregnancy in a small town in the city – a lot of very educated, well to do people assuming they knew why there was a high number of teenage pregnancies in the area and thought the answer was a jazzy leaflet about contraception, until I pointed out that one of the reasons I know  some get pregnant early in that area is misinformation about the benefits system and they all thought they were entitled to a free house and life…. And it was a factor non of them had even considered would be part of the issue.
In my opinion, another factor which contributes to Hanley having such a lack of revenue in the evening is the universities. I can only speak from my experience at Staffordshire University but it came as a shock to me that when being ‘shown around’ the campus and local area not a word was uttered about what Hanley had to offer. Granted, this was 4 years ago now and things might have changed, but I am doubtful. The only establishment the halls wardens/purple people told us about was Liquid. A lot of people new to the area actually thought that STOKE was the city centre too, not Hanley. A lot of ‘facepalming’ went on during these first few months. I showed the odd few what Hanley had to offer but when you can’t even brag about major high street shops it’s a bit of a lost cause. Although everyone loved the massive Primark. I feel a LOT more can be done by the education establishments to market the city more.
I think another problem with Stoke on Trent at the moment is the lack of opportunities. It’s a massive catch 22. As a recent job seeker I have felt the penny pinching hard times people of this city are faced with every single day. It’s incredibly competitive and disheartening when you have 200 applicants applying for one 22 hour job role which isn’t even a good rate of pay. This city seems to only have opportunities in cleaning or care work – both of which have anti social working hours meaning that a majority of people in these roles don’t enjoy every night up town.  Obviously if there were more jobs created in the city with better and more exciting opportunities, we would have more people in work and therefore being able to afford the price of a night out weekly. But as it stands I know I for one, cannot afford to be partying/drinking/socialising/going out in town week in week out. There’s talk of bringing bigger branded and chain restaurants into the city, but I also think at this present time that’s a bad call. I mean the novelty of Nando’s might be attractive now, but in a few months time when the money has dried up and novelty has worn off, the people of Stoke on Trent (which shockingly has 29% of children in families on out of work benefits) will not be dining there on a regularly enough basis for it to continue trading. But as I said, this all seems like one massive vicious circle where the city is damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
I really do try and look on the bright side and think positively of this place I call ‘home’, but it’s a bit hard at times…. It does make me a little sad that ‘The Potteries’ has totally lost it’s worth and is slowly but surely destroying it’s own heritage. I feel there is a great deal of potential here with so many creative individuals and the university growing by the day, it’s a shame that the people here do not embrace it, well I suppose it’s not that they don’t, it’s that they feel they cannot. It’s the land of missed opportunities and distinct lack of motivation to make itself better. The epitome of Stoke on Trent comes as soon as you enter the city via the train station. A massive statue in place, not with an inspirational quote but quite a true one for the city ”MAN CAN’T FLY” that’s right Stoke, you cannot do anything beyond settling so don’t even try….. Come on Stoke, we’re better than this. (and I know the intention of that statue isn’t meant to be seen in a negative light, but as a Stokie automatically seeing the dark side is in my nature)

I’ll also just add that I’m no councillor, no journalist, no one of importance within the grand scheme of things….. I’m just a regular patron of the city who happens to be in the age range and group that may just be effected by the decisions made now for the future of where I live. If I’ve not bored you to death whilst being on my ill informed soap box over here then leave a comment/tweet me, I wanna know what you think. Does the city in which you live sound like this? Or did something happen to make a positive change?