Bus station FN copy

Factory Night @ 1970s bus station and historic Peppers garage, Stoke-on-Trent

The original Bus Station in Hanley was built in the early 1970’s as a gateway to the City Centre of Stoke-on-Trent housing a shopping centre, restaurant and even a night club. The station is now infamous as a light-hearted and jolly failure and is due for demolition to be replaced by a brand new station in the nearby John Street.

Peppers of Hanley was a Garage and Petrol Station opened in the 1937 by John Pepper owner of one of the largest motor traders in the potteries. The garage stood over three floors and included the unusual feature of a car lift. The building fell into a state of disrepair until 2005 when it was passionately restored by local property developer and entrepreneur Andrew Smith of who has won regeneration and local authority building control awards for his sensitive restoration.

The Factory Night included time to explore the bus station and upstairs precinct with an introduction by Coffee Bar employee Carole giving her personal account of the changing bus station over the last 16 years and we then went onto Peppers Garage for a tour by the owner Andrew Smith including footage of his extensive restoration.

This Factory Night focused on regeneration and the changing landscape of Stoke-on-Trent City Centre, using the example of the Peppers Garage building that has already changed and developed and the bus station development that is in its first stages of regeneration. We spent time looking at the heritage of the area and discussing what has caused the decline and how the city and its people have responded.

Piece of Writing in response to the Factory Night by Jeff Phelps:


Who could have foreseen this ending

when they dreamed it up

with such optimism – those drawings

of sunlit arches, bougainvillea

on bustling walkways,

perfectly defined shadows

across glazing?  What happened

to those hipster, Wrangler kids,

the well-heeled Letraset women

stalking in their pencil skirts

towards an unimagined

new century?


It is a tide breaking on the shore

of the Potteries, all day in and out

like the roll of pebbles on cold beaches,

a down-at-heel pleasure pier

landlocked in the English Midlands.

You’ll want to disembark, to hurry to the city

that shelters behind its gimcrack façade, for this

is no welcome for tourists.

Yet there’s something of the seaside

all washed up, that gaudy fragility,

the smell of ozone, a hint of ammonia.


The scrap heap’s where I’ll be

when this disappears in six months time,

maybe twelve, who knows?

I’ve seen business come and go

like buses – the needles, the muggings,

the dossers, the shops

closing one by one, the toilets.  That

was the beginning of the end when

they closed the toilets.  And the internet.

But still we’re always busy.  I don’t know

where they come from, our regulars.

They sit and ask for credit and sometimes,

because I know them, they get it.

Don’t tell the boss.  He’s OK but even he

can’t stop this rot.  At my age

I don’t see it matters much.  I can go home,

spend time with the grandkids.  It’s the others

I worry about – out of work

and soon enough on the scrap heap

like this place.


It is near Christmas and we are chilled

though we see art everywhere:

in the light show of passengers,

the fabric of conversation,

the choreography of railings and roofs.

What kind of art would you like to see here?

No answer comes, at least none that can be heard,

only between the words a look that says

art?  It’s too late for that now.

Yet it is easy to rest in the past,

to be cynical of the future.  There is courage just

in opening a sketch book, searching between cracks

in pavements.  There is renewal

in standing in the city

inventing it afresh.



Walkaden Shoe Repairs We Sell Christimas Dinners

Trentham, Coalville, Cheadle, Chell.

How about something to keep you going?

Sainsbury’s Triple Distilled Vodka?

Except buses, Premier Pool Club

Saxonfields, Espa, Biddulph, Tean.

Mow Cop Azza Kesic Chris.

Cherry Farm, Banda Bingo

Blue Buses Blurton.

Show’s Over.




Voyeurs, we glue our eyes to the window,

finding gaps scratched in purple paint

as if a story will unreel,

a what-the-butler-saw of scandal behind.

The picture is smoke-damaged, a silent movie.

You have to invent your own drama

from overturned tables, a menu,

stairs to nowhere, a floor carpeted

in pigeon shit.


In the new world

a frond of glass and steel

will unfurl to embrace you,

buses caked in clay

will dock like worker bees

bringing pollen from the suburbs

to the new world.  There will be hotels

and restaurants, maxi multi-plexes

and all will be in its proper order:

cars and people, arts and commerce,

delivery and despatch.

This old hive will be reduced to dust,

and all its stories, not forgotten,

will be shelved like honeycomb

remembering the taste of

coffee, fried onions, oatcakes.

For another forty years

all will hum along perfectly

in the new world