Stoking Curiosity

Stoking Curiosity is a festival that will build and nurture a community of curious people in Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire. We will celebrate being inquisitive, spark ideas and get involved in research together in our communities.

Please note
• If no times are given, the activity will be on for the whole day.
• Some events will be on either Friday or Saturday – these are listed first.
• Some events will be on both days and for most of the day – these are listed later, scroll down the whole page to read the full programme.
• Some events may not be suitable for children.
• Workshops will be offered on a first come, first served basis. Register in advance to avoid disappointment – see link at the bottom of the page.
• All events are FREE.
• ACAVA Studios will also be open with an exhibition in the Gallery Space and some artists will be opening their studios to the curious. Scroll below for details.

Only on Friday 16 November (doors open 10am–5pm)

The conversation – discussion and debates

The chemistry of glass in art (11:00–11:20am) (registration required for the workshops)
Angela Ashton, ACAVA Studios
The chemistry of bullseye coloured glass creates some amazing effects in art of glass fusing. But why do certain glass colours react together? Why do different colours of glass react with silver and copper foils, and how can the effects be manipulated? Angela will also be running fused glass workshops in her studio across the site at ACAVA studios. Pre-book your slot by choosing Fused glass on the booking page. Workshops are not suitable for children under 14 years.

Active city stories
Peter Hooper, Cox Bank Publishing
City stories capture through words, drawing or other creative art, what you love about being active – be it exercise or walking the dog or anything else – stop for five minutes at Peter’s table to see what you can do.

Painting – from America, through Japan, to England (11:30–11:50am)
Chalice Mitchell, Artist
Watch a slide show of Chalice’s portraits. Tell her how you see her portrait paintings change through the years spent learning in America to living in Japan and now in Stoke-on-Trent. How do you think will her artwork progress?

Are young children creative? (12:00–12:20pm)
Sarah Rose, Staffordshire University
Are young children creative or do they mainly imitate? Join this debate on how we define creativity, how it develops during childhood, and how is it influenced by factors such as educational experiences.

Deborah the tank: a WW1 tank creating peaceful communities across Europe (12:30–12:50pm)
Fiona Graham, Staffordshire University
See an exclusive film about Deborah, a female tank that waged a successful battle in World War 1, now risen from the ground and showcased in a museum. Then join in this one of our two discussions around remembrances and commemoration of war stories.

MM-SNAP app: aiding lifestyle changes in people with multiple conditions (1:00–1:20pm)
Konstantinos Spyropoulos, Staffordshire University
Hear about the final part of my PhD research on the use of mobile technologies for supporting healthier lifestyles. MM-SNAP is for people with two or more long-term conditions who find it hard to change.

Arts on prescription? (1:30–2:20pm)
Eleanor Babb, Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
How can we connect artists, musicians and arts organisations with healthcare providers in Stoke-on-Trent to explore an arts-on-prescription type scheme? What do we know already around this? What can we learn from others who have tried similar schemes?

Martin’s box of curiosities (2:30–2:50pm)
Martin Brown, Staffordshire University
Using a surprise ‘box of curiosities’ presented by my students, I will reveal materials and artefacts of curiosity about the Potteries’ recent regeneration history as ‘show and tell’. I will welcome ideas for further donations to this Special Collection at Staffordshire University Library.

What’s Plan B? Discussing cooperative strategies for artists in the face of public sector cuts
Nicola Winstanley  

It’s magic … but we don't know why! (3:30–4:30pm) (registration required)
Val Nash, Connecting Choices Social Hubs
We support people with low self-belief/self-esteem, we see them transform and become active contributors to society and their community when nothing else has worked. How and why does our programme work?

Write, talk and do

Ask me anything (11:00am–12:00pm) (registration required)

James Fox Neville, LGBT trainer, consultant and mentor
Jamie identified as female for 25 of his 28 years of life. He’s now on a journey learning about gender, bodies, social norms and his place in the world. Respectfully explore your curiosity in this shame-free space about what it is to be and live as a trans person. Suitable for 16+ years.

I see ___. What do you see? (11:30am–1:00pm) (registration required)
Chloe Jade Chatton, Staffordshire University
Look at some images – does everyone see the same? Compare opinions and find out why you see what you see and how artists try to communicate with us through their work.

War and remembrance: commemorating the Falklands war (12:00–2:00pm) (registration required)
Helen Parr, Keele University
After the Falklands war in 1982, the bodies of military dead fallen on land were repatriated for the first time in British history. Helen reads from her book, Our Boys, and asks - how can we commemorate war? What do we remember, and what do we forget? Not suitable for young children.

Poetic peace (2:00–3:00pm) (registration required)
Robert Montgomery, Artist, poet, sculptor
How do you imagine peace? Is it a state of mind? Join Robert to write a poem on what peace means to you as part of Paper peace, a national arts and heritage project.

Puppet craft (3:00–5:00pm) (registration required)

Carl Wilson, Artist
Curious about puppets? Join Carl to explore how he makes his puppets.

Think, create, eat

Illuminating the Internet of Things: computing of the now and future
Jonathon Westlake, Staffordshire University
This workshop demonstrates the accessibility of computing and digital technology today. Touch, feel, see micro-computers and create an hands-on example to get to grips with the ‘Internet of Things’.

Drawing curiosity (11:00am–3:00pm)

The YMCA @ Harding Road
Join the young people from the YMCA, Hanley, to create your own curiosity-themed artwork. Ask questions, and share tips and tricks.

Bread in Common bakery chat (12:30–1:30pm)

Susan Clarke, b Arts
What are the stories people tell while cooking or eating together? What does that tell us about being a temporary community of cooks and diners? Susan will tell stories and share food memories while you make and taste food together around an outdoor hearth.

Making your mark (2:00–3:00pm)
Katie Leonard, Staffordshire University
Close to an old Spode bottle kiln, join Katie and her team of artists/educators at a skill-share workshop to learn the language of clay while creating a piece with your hands.

Making clay countercoins (3:00–5:00pm)
Mike Riddell, Hometown Plus
Is an alternative currency to money possible? Try your hand at making a CounterCoin – a home-made local currency that incentivises and rewards community action and volunteering.
See, comment, inspire

Peace poem installation (2:00–3:30pm)
Robert Montgomery, Artist, Poet, Sculptor
See workshop description above – and explore the installation as it stops in Spode for the festival during its journey round the city of Stoke-on-Trent.

Have a voice

Tea for your thoughts (10:00am–12:00pm/2:00–5:00pm)
Robert Marsden, Mitchell Arts Centre
Have a cup of tea with the Mitchell Arts Centre (MAC) team while sharing your thoughts about re-shaping its vision as a creative hub for artists in Stoke on Trent and North Staffordshire.

Only on Saturday 17 November (doors open 10am-5pm)

The conversation – discussion and debates

Pottery about chemistry (11:00–11:20am)
Katherine Haxton, Keele University
Nothing says Stoke-on-Trent like pottery – but what’s chemistry go to do with it? From historical discoveries to innovative ceramics, delve into the fascinating chemistry defining The Potteries and its perfect pots. Which local potter helped discover a valuable metal? How does the chemistry of ceramics keeps modern society running? Join the workshop later (see below).

DUST Rising: creative and curious conversations (11:30am–12:20pm)
Dawn Jutton and Joyce Iwaszko, Co-curators, DUST Rising
Linked to the DUST Rising Exhibition installation at the festival, this discussion will explore how we can raise the profile of visual arts and artists in Stoke-on-Trent, and how does a more accessible, vibrant and cross-disciplinary visual arts scene aid in social and economic regeneration?

Prejudice, bias and identity neutral policy (12:30–12:50pm)
Shiva Sikdar, Keele University
Grades and degrees are taken as a signal or measure of intrinsic ability. They influence decisions about entry to universities and shortlisting for jobs. But how does our background make a difference here – join the debate on how this should be taken into account in entry/hiring decisions.

Together: where next for the Stoke and North Staffs Women's Network? (1:00–1:20pm)
Linda Holt, Stoke and North Staffs Women's Network
Can this area-wide network support and promote a sense of personal agency? How do women of different ages, class, culture and interests belong to and benefit from this network? How can the network be more meaningful, co-operative and inclusive? Join the debate.

Writing your life (1:30–2:20pm)
Stephen Seabridge, Poet Laureate, Stoke-on-Trent
Stephen will talk how his work and life are difficult to separate. How writing – once you get started – can give meaning to many things, become all-encompassing. Join Stephen for discussing and debating on how to stoke your curiosities.

How shall we Catch the Dream? (2:30–2:50pm)
Fiona Uschmann, Catch the Dream
Catch the Dream works in partnership with Lungi village, Sierra Leone, which was struck by the Ebola crisis. We want to ask you how do we support our friends to reach their goals not ours?

Time travel through photographs (3:00–4:00pm)
Sameer Deshpande, Stoke history enthusiast
Bring to life the history of Stoke-on-Trent by connecting people through past and present photographs – bring your photographs for this session.

Play, write, talk, do

Talking about curiosity (10:00–11:00am) (registration required)
Diane Swift, Keele and North Staffordshire Teacher Education
What does curiosity mean to you? Using a community of enquiry approach, we will begin to explore what being curious could mean. Then take the thoughts from this workshop to other sessions to extend your ideas.

So who said ‘democracy’ means voting? (11:30am–12:30pm) (registration required)

Angela Ghadery, Keele University
Is democracy the best form of government? What does democracy exactly mean? Was it ever meant to depend on majority wins at a ballot box? Or is there a more sophisticated way to achieve good government by the people? Share your views in this very topical workshop.

The power of creative collaboration (1:00–3:00pm) (registration required)
Richard Seymour, Keele University
The 'White Water Writers' project gives groups of people the opportunity to collaboratively write and publish a novel in just one week. Join this workshop to collaboratively plot an entire novel in just two hours and discover what is possible when we work together.

Reaching for arts, culture and community (2:30–3:30pm) (registration required)
Patsy Corcoran, Asist Advocacy Services
How we can all work together for inclusion? Join this workshop to discuss what gets in the way and what helps people to get involved and feel more included in arts, culture and community. Bring your curiosity to the conversation to make inclusion real.

Dead good: DIY acts of commemoration and remembrance (3:00–5:00pm) (registration required)
Katy Vigurs, University of Derby
Death is still often a taboo subject. Join the growing community who are gently encouraging people to think and talk about death and dying, and to open up the options for creative DIY acts of remembrance and commemoration. This workshop will provide a space to start such conversations and to have a go at DIY acts of remembrance.

Listen, see, speak

Shot of science! (10:30am–12:00pm and 2:00–4:00pm)
Aina Mogas Barcons, Emma Green, Chris Adams, Adam Stanton, Yolanda Gómez Gálvez, Keele University
This is the little sibling of the Pint of Science, taking place worldwide in pubs. In the relaxed surroundings of the Stoking Curiosity bar hear some academics delivering a shot (short and powerful!) description of their research – then pick their brains with your questions.

Feral futures
Ben Anderson, Keele University, and Laurel Gallagher, Feral State, The Potteries
Ten brave child explorers have investigated, mapped and recorded ‘derelict’ Burslem Port. Now they want to ask you what you think. What to make of these places? Are they at an end? Or are they the beginning of something … else?

Think, create, write

Pottery about chemistry
Katherine Haxton, Keele University
If you joined the discussion (see above) then get on with activity. If you didn’t, Katherine will be talking again in the workshop about what’s chemistry go to do with pottery. Then join in in the hands-on stuff.

Emergency Poet
Deborah Alma and James Sheard, Writers and poets
Poemcetamol? Enter the ambulance of the mobile poetic first aid service for a consultation and discover a poetry pharmacy.


Live printing workshop
Entrepreneurs Network (Cooke Edwards Fenton Ltd), Creative agency
Screen printing is one of the most versatile methods of printing still in use, despite being invented almost 1,000 years ago. Discover how this process works and have fun at pulling your own print.

All day activities on both 16 and 17 November (doors open 10am-5pm)

Explore – installations and activities

The quest for a life-like prosthetic hand
Ed Chadwick, Keele University
Interact with a robotic hand installation. Discover the technology being developed at Keele University to help us improve the control of artificial hands. It’s cutting edge science, it’s bionics!

The art and science of making artificial legs
Rajeev Singha and colleagues, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Haywood Hospital
About 60,000 people need artificial limbs but many of us don’t know someone who has one. Find out how the materials and processes to make the limbs have changed and advanced over the years.

Martin’s cabinet of curiosities
Martin Brown, Staffordshire University
Read Martin Brown’s retelling of the history of curiosity cabinets before exploring his collection.

Curiosity cabinets of DUST
Dawn Jutton and Joyce Iwaszko, Co-curators, DUST Rising
Follow on to the installation of selected pieces from the DUST Rising Exhibition, which will inspire you to be more curious about the arts, and about creativity as a worthwhile and powerful activity. Leave your feedback for the artists to have a voice in how they develop the next DUST Rising exhibition in 2020.

Chalice Mitchell, Artist
This looped video of paintings is based on the movements of martial arts and created through gestural paint strokes and stop-motion animation. Watch as the foreground and the background become one and tell the artist what you see in this motion painting.

Think, create, play, write!

Curious plasticity (workshops 11:00am–1:00pm/2:00–4:00 pm) (registration required)
Deirdre McKay and the Hacking Plastic Collective, Keele University
Through playful approaches to plastic waste and public knowledge, join our quest to find creative solutions to today’s plastic problem that suit our situation in Stoke-on-Trent. In between workshops, there will be storytelling and writing around plastics, posters and artworks to explore.

Looking after yourself (12-1pm/2:30–3:30pm)

Shiya Mohan, SoTogether Community Advisory Network
Do you forget to look after yourself while being curious about everything else? Share your curiosity about your own wellbeing with Shiya and discover how not to burn out.

The Stoking Curiosity piano
Phillip Hardaker, Artist
Bit by bit with mosaics can a piano be reborn? Watch and share in this transformation of an abandoned grand instrument into a legacy for the future.
Have a voice

Connecting people – making partnerships
Penny Vincent and Nic Gratton, Staffordshire University
Meet Penny and Nic as you explore the Stoking Curiosity trail to tell us how we can make better connections between ourselves, between our communities, between our communities and universities.

Design your way to a healthy habitat
Nichola Street and Gemma Hurst, Staffordshire University
Do you like to think about how your physical environment affects the way you think, feel and behave? Using virtual reality (VR) technology, travel to a new planet and help design what a healthy world would look like. VR is suitable for 13+ years.

#SpodeStories: new narratives of place
Danny Callaghan and Howard Bristol, Spode Museum Trust and National Trust
What does Spode and Spode Works mean to you? Is it special and why? Join Spode Museum Trust and National Trust’s dynamic conversations about Spode and Spode Works past, present and future. Share your #SpodeStories as you enter the museum.

The 2050 Energy Calculator (DFEE) and Keele’s energy bike
After seeing the Pot Bank’s sustainable bio-mass heating unit, have a go at the government’s energy calculator to see how you can consume energy more effectively. Also see how many watts you can produce on the energy bike and compare that with what it takes power everyday appliances – curious or shocking?

ACAVA Studios

Common gallery space – Exhibition of curiosities
Artwork from as many of the Acava studios artists as possible, activating an eclectic mix of mediums and materials. The exhibition will be held in the communal gallery and communal studio so it will naturally integrate with the walk round.
These artists will be opening their studios and craft to the curious on both days:
• Christine Mallaband Brown, Planetary atmospheric patterns in paint.
• Emily Jane, Unique handmade wearable art.
• Aneta Brudkowska, Traditional craftsmanship combined with graphic design and laser engraving.
• Asha Tank, Multimedia fluid artist.

How to get there

By bus
Bus numbers 14, 14a, 14W, 21, 21a, 23 and 23a stop at the Elenora Street bus stop near the entrance gate.

By car
Follow the signs for Stoke and Spode (brown signs) from the A500. There is limited parking available on the Spode Works site. But there are several pay and display car parks within walking distance:
• Elenora Street car park, opposite the red factory gates, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1QG
• Vale Street car park, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1AY
• Copeland Street car park, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1AE
• Hide Street car park, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1NL
• Kingsway car park, Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1JH

Stoking Curiosity is co-produced, co-organised by a partnership between Keele and Staffordshire Universities, the communities of Stoke-on-Trent, the Spode site communities – the Spode Heritage Museum Trust, the Pot Bank and ACAVA studios – and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.



Event date
Event Time
Spode Works, 32 Eleanora Street, Stoke ST4 1QD
Stoking Curiosity
Contact email
Contact telephone
01782 734340

Register now