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Dirty Laundry

A local historian, a playwright and a director talk about a new site-specific performance exploring the impact of the pollution caused by pottery industry in 1950s Stoke-on-Trent

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When the smogs of London had finally forced the government to tackle the issue air quality, people in Stoke had been dying of industrial lung disease for over a century, and the upcoming Clean Air Act was going to affect the pottery industry more than any other.

“We feel that Stoke-on-Trent, with its roots in the Industrial Revolution, has such a deep and painful experience of industrial pollution, poor air quality and occupational disease that it is the perfect place to have this debate about our environment today,” says playwright Deborah McAndrew, who’s best known for An August Bank Holiday Lark. She’s written an ambitious site-specific play, supported by Arts Council England, that will take its audience to an industrial space – the former home of bone china, Spode Works – that will be converted into a theatre, with a set recreating the living room of a small potters’ house of the 1950s.

A Claybody Theatre production, the play runs on 11-21 Oct and there will be panel discussions after performances on 11,17 and 20 October, when audience members can stay behind after the show to discuss these environmental themes with the help of an expert panel.

One panel member will be local historian Fred Hughes who below provides some background to the play. In the following videos McAndrew explains the play’s development and her husband, director Conrad Nelson, takes viewers on a tour of the site.

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