Discover Hanley’s secret history with a new “trail”
Listeners can now enjoy a downtown tour with a difference from the comfort of their own home.
The Secret City, created by Potboiler Theatre, tells Hanley’s story using historical research and real-life experiences from different eras, such as going to Lewis’s house on Christmas in the late 1940s, getting pierced and surrendering at the Food Court in 1998.
It was originally launched as an audio walking tour in August last year, when visitors could learn more about Hanley by following an illustrated map and scanning QR codes on site to listen to the stories on their smartphones.
Listeners could use the map, created by Staffordshire-based illustrator Katie May, to uncover the first eight stories, then had to solve the clues to find the location of the ninth and final tale.
But now the Potboiler Theater has made all of the stories available on its website so people can explore the trail without physically needing to be there.
Director Kat Hughes, of Alsager, said she wanted as many people as possible to listen to the project.
The 32-year-old, who runs the theater company with writer Kat Boon, from Penkhull, said: “If you know Hanley you can listen to the stories and imagine exactly where they are. A guide explains everything .so you don’t need to be able to see it We also had visually impaired people in mind when we created it.
“Everyone has their own story about the city center and what it means to them. Mine goes to Hanley with my mum early on Saturday mornings and has a BHS breakfast, while Kat’s would probably be about the Mitchell Arts Center.
“Hanley has had so many lives and it changes all the time. We love our city and want it to have as many exciting opportunities as other places. We wanted to do something positive and we would like to add more to it. stories in the future.”
The team held workshops and drop-in sessions to allow people to share their memories and anecdotes about Hanley, and conducted more in-depth interviews and historical research to dig deeper into the themes.
They then worked with a composer and sound designer to create a “sound adventure in which you experience downtown in a completely new way”. It is portrayed by actors Ciaran Edwards, Shanice Harris, Liz Nelson, Ava Ralph, Barry Shannon, Claire Storey and Jack Wilkinson – most of whom were born or are based in Stoke-on-Trent.
Funding for The Secret City came from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Stoke-on-Trent Business Improvement District (BID).
The locations on the map are: outside Hanley Indoor Market, 1964; outside hedonism in Town Road, 1998; outside Lewis in Stafford Street, Christmas 1949; Bethesda Street, 1953; outside Top Rank in Albion Street, 1972; outside Chico’s in Charles Street, 1986; and Poundbakery in Parliament Row, nowadays.
Kat said she received positive feedback from people around the world who listened to the stories.
She added: “When it was downtown, a lot of people told us they liked doing something a little different as a family that was free.
“Since the stories have been online, we’ve had quite a few messages from people who now live overseas and feel like they’ve been brought back to Hanley, which was quite unexpected for us. It’s fun for us to look at the analytics and see where people are listening from.
“We hope people will listen and be ready to be surprised.”
The stories can all be listened to for free on the Potboiler Theater website.
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