Today, in Hanley Market, Fountain Square, myself and artists Rebecca Davies and Glen Stoker launched 'The People's Walk of Fame' for Stoke-on-Trent.
From a market stall we talked to the great and the good of the City about who should be represented in a Walk of Fame and why. Far from being a list of Stoke Celebrities, we hope to hear stories about brilliant people from all walks of life, past and present from across the city - and we were not disappointed today.
We heard some familiar names, Stanley Matthews, Arnold Bennett and Reginald Mitchell, but we also heard from Shel, about her elderly neighbour Ray, who died earlier this year, but who had looked after her and her family when her husband had a brain injury, and about how people like Ray are so important in making a city a place to live.
Over the next month we will be visiting the 6 towns to talk to people about their Stoke Heroes, and then on 17th October, we will be back in Hanley with the longlist from across the city. People will then be able to vote for the shortlist, whose names will go forward for a public artwork for the centre of the city.
The idea of a Walk of Fame comes from Hollywood Boulevard, where stars of stage and screen have their names in the pavement. This is a fun idea for Hollywood, but for Stoke, we thought about something much more grounded. The idea of a Walk of Fame made us think of shoes, and creating a journey. I like the idea that you could try on your heroes shoes, it feels aspirational, and invites participation, so our idea for a public artwork is to create a series of trails of shoes to follow, tracking the names of Stoke People who have made a contribution to the city's development, its history, its reputation, voted for by the people of the city today.
I am looking forward to hearing people's stories from across the city, of who should be celebrated. After just one day, we have already heard some brilliant tales.
We met Mike Bailey, working on the stall next to us in Hanley Market. A true legend of the city, selling perfume and wigs, Mike has been working the market for 40 years. Mike was very generous, helping us to sort our pitch and get a gazebo up, and welcoming us to Market - he even got a surprise vote for the People's Walk of Fame.
People can vote online here until 15th October: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/P77BCHJEnormous thanks to Rebecca Davies for the brilliant artwork for the project.