Today’s post was actually mainly originally published on a Crap Towns thread on B3ta.com. Happily, the author has given me permission to use it. And I say “happily” especially because it’s a corker. Sorry Stoke-On-Trent! You sound really, really crap:
Stoke has become a city in which the disappointment in the past has mutated into a sneering resentment of the present. It was in Stoke in the 1990s that I heard a shopkeeper complaining about decimal currency.
The tragedy is not that it fails; it is that it fails when it need not. It was once a thriving industrial city; it was never wealthy, but it was wealthy enough, and it had an industrial pride, confidence, and swagger. But the decline of the pottery industry, the destruction of the coal industry, and the closing of the Shelton Bar Steel Works tore the heart from the place. Into that void spilled poverty both economic and aspirational.
There is one growth industry in the area: warehousing. The economic hopes of the region have been pinned on the provision of large, pre-fabricated empty buildings into which things can be put. As you head into the city by train from the north, you can see a large green warehouse on the left. It is in the middle of nowhere, and was completed a couple of years ago. It is still empty.
I have several doctor friends, several of whom have commented that working at the North Staffs hospital is fascinating because they see illnesses there that have been eradicated everywhere else in the country for two generations: diseases of pollution and poverty. The hospital itself is built on a plague-pit; I had an aunt who would refuse to be admitted there because she could remember it from her childhood, when it had been a workhouse.
Stoke-on-Trent is a city built on coal and clay with a spirit of asbestos.