Ladies and Gentlemen, I know you have been crammed in here for hours, getting hotter and hotter and longing for your lunch as I pass endless long trestle tables next door, so I hope we won't prolong your misery for too much longer but I did just want to say what an enormous pleasure it is to see you all here today. As Ian has already said it is a very proud day for my Regeneration Trust and I'm particularly grateful after all the kind things he has said about me, to Ian and indeed Ros the Chief Executive, for all the amazing efforts and time they have put in to these projects. Some of you, perhaps, over the years, have got to understand just how difficult and frustrating they can be. Putting these things together is not easy, believe you me, so having somebody like Ian with the skills he has and the contacts he has (there are lots of people here I suspect with twisted arms and feet that have been trodden on and God knows what else, by Ian!) makes all the difference.
It is an enormously special day when we can actually demonstrate to all of you the way something like Middleport Pottery can be brought back to life and all sorts of jobs saved. When English Heritage approached my Trust about the imminent closure of this world-famous company, and the seemingly inevitable break-up of its workforce, the loss of traditional skills, and the destruction of so many industrial artefacts and archives, including the unique collection of moulds (and if you ever have a minute ladies and gentlemen you must go look at the moulds store because it is unbelievably special, the atmosphere and everything else; with any luck it will collect dust and cobwebs and look even more special very shortly!) perhaps you can imagine I was determined that this could not be allowed to happen, the loss of all these things. And I'm enormously grateful to Simon Thurley of English Heritage for having drawn my Trust's attention to this unique site. There are other sites still, believe it or not, all over the place, which are of enormous importance.
Since its acquisition back in 2011, my Trust has been working tirelessly to conserve and regenerate Middleport Pottery so that traditional pottery production can continue, new craft businesses can be given an opportunity to grow, and, importantly, create an education and visitor attraction so that local people and those from much further afield can learn about our wonderful British ceramics industry.
The other thing which is so interesting, Ladies and Gentlemen, is this huge and growing interest in other parts of the world, particularly the Far-East, in traditional British products. We have here a real opportunity, I think, to make the most of this increasing interest in what can be done so well in this country with the skills that go with it.
Now as some of you have no doubt heard me say before (to your intense boredom I suspect!) I have always believed that heritage-led regeneration in other words finding new uses for redundant heritage buildings and turning them into real assets for the local communities is absolutely vital in bringing new industry and business to the area, boosting the economy and providing much-needed employment and prosperity. I hope that this project at Middleport is proving to be a catalyst for further regeneration in Burslem and more widely. From that point of view again, I wanted to add my thanks to what Ian was saying about Joan Walley, who has done so much for this area and indeed, kept on badgering me for years to come to Burslem and help people and I finally got here. I just hope we can do a little bit to contribute to this very important area.
Again, all I really want to do today is to thank everyone involved who has in some way helped to secure the future of Middleport Pottery. In particular, I am incredibly grateful to the donors, the patrons, the benefactors and friends of my Regeneration Trust who provide the funds to allow my Trust to carry out such vital work. You have been so kind over the years and I never know quite how to thank you enough but I hope you understand just how important you all are.
As Ian said, since I founded the Trust nearly 18 years ago I suppose it goes further back because there was another one I set up called the Phoenix Trust, which we joined together with the Regeneration Through Heritage one which I started Business in The Community this project has been its most ambitious and showcases its unique combination of skills in delivering building restoration and social regeneration through partnership.
As Ian was saying, there are thousands of buildings and communities in need: communities which are socially and economically deprived, struggling with the blights of poverty, unemployment and a loss of pride in their local neighbourhood, often as a result of losing their vital industries. A great many of these communities contain buildings of local, if not national, importance, and I am convinced that with a little imagination, these well-constructed old buildings could very easily be transformed and given new uses, which then acts as a powerful catalyst for social regeneration within communities.
As Ian said, this represents a significant opportunity for my Trust, and in order to make the most of it I know that they are looking at how to diversify and engage new partners, to ensure that they deliver the most impact possible. I can only ask that you will all continue to help support my Trust as it embarks on this new phase of activity.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, Stoke-on-Trent is the cradle of the British ceramics industry, and the contribution made to this country by The Potteries has been enormous. So I am absolutely thrilled that this Pottery is alive and breathing once again. Thank you for your support.