Lord Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen, I just want to say that my wife and I have so enjoyed the chance of meeting so many of you as possible this afternoon. I’m only sorry that you had to stand for so long here in this marvellous hall.
I think, Ladies and Gentlemen, that I hardly need remind you proud citizens of Stoke of the significance of the anniversary that we’re celebrating today. Your predecessors a hundred years ago saw that it made good commercial sense to pool common resources and join forces in pursuit of the common good. Hence the Federation came into being after a negotiation, which I gather in itself took about a hundred years to conclude. That reminds me of a hospital I once opened about thirty years ago for which my grandmother had laid the foundation stone twenty-five years before that!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I was delighted to hear about the plans being developed by the City to commemorate this historic event by arranging a variety of festivals throughout the year. I’m only sorry that my wife and I won’t be able to join you on Federation day itself, March 31st for what promises to be a memorable dinner and a presentation of an award to the citizen of the century. What a task it must have been to judge that!
One thing has been abundantly clear from our visit already and that is how rich a cultural heritage this whole area possesses. We have marvelled at the Anglo-Saxon Hoard, been greatly impressed by Bethesda Church and bowled over by the wonderful ceramic collection in the Potteries Museum, which rather reminded me of my very amateur efforts at pottery when I was at school a very long time ago. The tradition of craftsmanship represented in the Museum is all the more remarkable for being still alive today, albeit threatened in a world, which doesn’t always appreciate its value. It is of course a tragedy to witness the loss of skills and potential talent built up over so many years in this famous area of England.
I wonder Ladies and Gentlemen how long it will be before the unsustainable consequences of this short-term approach will be appreciated and the long-term value of the Potteries’ reputation for real quality and excellence produced by people such as Emma Bridgewater or Dudson’s work force whose grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents all worked on the Pot Banks. How long before that quality of excellence is once again realised?
We are very much looking forward to visiting two successful pottery manufacturers this afternoon, Dudson and Emma Bridgewater. I only hope that their success could inspire others to invest in the industry and produce beautiful ceramics for generations to come.
In conclusion Ladies and Gentlemen, I would very much like to thank you most warmly for the kind welcome you have given my wife and myself to Stoke-on-Trent today. I can only offer you my heartfelt congratulations on this special anniversary and wish you well if I may, in your centenary year. And most important for the next one hundred years!
Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.