Pits, potteries and their dust-clogged, dangerous environments once made Stoke a sick city. Yet as traditional industry has declined, the trade with the biggest occupational hazards is now unemployment.

Over a quarter of the city’s children live in totally workless houses, incomes are a third lower than the national average, and one in four adults of working age receives workless benefits.

The city’s death rate is more than a quarter higher than the national average.

On 25 February 2011, the council approved plans to cut 710 jobs, slashing £36 million from the 2012 budget. These cuts will make Stoke the third most vulnerable area in the country. The city is due to shed 1,870 public sector jobs before 2016.

Casualties of the cuts included Bucknall City Farm, closed by the council on March 6, 2011 to make a saving of £143,000.

The farm, home to a menagerie of horses, donkeys, rare breed pigs, goats, rabbits and birds since 1980, was a much needed source of pride for an area in the top ten per cent of the most deprived wards in the country, and provided volunteering opportunities for hundreds of local disabled adults.

Now the donkey has been moved to a sanctuary, and the animals have been rehoused.

The Etruria Industrial Museum, located in what was the Victorian equivalent of Silicon Valley, is also threatened. Cuts have forced enthusiasts to set up a charitable trust to run the museum and its much valued education programme.

Read my 2011 Big Issue in the North piece about austerity in Stoke here; the 2013 update is here.


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  • younger participant in rag rug workshop, etruria
  • John Machin makes moulds by hand in the workshop at Middleport pottery factory
  • older participant in rag rug workshop, etruria
  • penny williams, campaigner against the closure of meir community centre
  • lady feeding ducks outside etruria industrial museum
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