Comment Article By Tony Walley.
I started work in 1979.
Back then there was a diverse range of industry in our City. The Potteries, Shelton Bar, Michelin Tyres, Tile Manufacturers, Commercial Vehicle Body manufacturers, the list was endless.
As the end of June approaches I find my mind wandering back to the days when the ‘Potters Fortnight’ ruled the life of the people of Stoke-on-Trent.
Starting the last week of June and taking in the first week of July, the numbers of folk heading off to the Costa Del Sun or the drizzle soaked coasts of North Wales, left our city resembling a ghost town.
I remember the build up to the potters as being an exciting time.
On the run up to the holidays you would try to accrue as much overtime as you possibly could. This would help with the old spends and beer tokens, for wherever you chose to go.
There was a term used to describe the week before the shutdown, ‘Bull Week’ – this was when you never refused any work that was allocated to you in a bid to boost your ‘holiday pay’.
The last few days before the ‘Potters’ was more in keep with the end of term at school. There was a definite slow down in production as most guys and girls spent more and more time discussing their plans for the holidays.
The Potters Fortnight was a great thing and is sadly another part of our city’s heritage that is becoming consigned as a thing of the past.
Families in Stoke-on-Trent used to benefit from the huge savings on the costs of holidays abroad because this time of year was not recognised as a national school holiday.
You could go anywhere in the med or to the coastal resorts of this country and the bars and beaches would be full of Stokies spending their hard earned money. It was like the resorts had been exclusively claimed by the people of Stoke-on-Trent.
Those people or families who could not afford to go away on holiday were catered for here in Stoke-on-Trent. The police came up with a fantastic initiative called SPACE. I think I am right in saying that this scheme was the brainchild of a normal PC who realised that if the police organised a large range of activities for the young people of our city the police resources would be less stretched by the increase number of police call out for nuisance complaints.
Football, Tennis, Cricket, craft workshops and day trips out all formed part of Staffordshire Police’s SPACE schemes and I know I benefited from this initiative and so did the majority of my mates. The scheme was also a fantastic way of breaking down the barriers that existed at the time between the police and the youth of the day.
Today, with the demise of the city’s traditional industries, the Potters Holidays are sadly no more. Employers no longer want a two week shut down, although this shut down was essential to enable important maintenance to take place.
Education do-gooders did not want our city’s children absent for the Potters fortnight and then a month later have another four week summer holiday. There was no consideration that this was probably the only way that most parents could afford to take their kids away for a family holiday.
Life in our city bears little resemblance to those lazy, hazy, crazy days of the Potters Holidays. The days when the Pits and the Potts along with Shelton Bar, Creda and the Michelin, made the citizens of the proud City of Stoke-on-Trent as important as every other person in our country.
There is no doubt in my mind that the demise of the Potters Holidays singled the end of the traditional industries and the end of era for our city.
But, I can still remember the buzz and excitement of the build up to those all important holidays.
I am away for a few days next week and trying to get everything sorted out at the office so that I can finish with a clear slate has brought the memories flooding back and the realisation of the fact that those good old times are gone for ever.