Stoke-On-Trent: City Of Comedy

Stoke-On-Trent: City Of Comedy
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As a Stokie, I know all too well the difficulties faced by the Potteries breed during the rare occasions we decide to grace the uncivilised world with our presence. Whether in Britain, abroad, or in extraterrestrial territory, on learning that someone is from Stoke-on-Trent people always say the same thing: "Stoke? As in the football team?"

Of course, if the questioner has a doctorate in Applied Condescending from Oxford University, they'd additionally comment on our love of a food that looks like a pancake and our sentiment towards a once booming ceramics industry. Then we would be left satisfied that our local heritage has a larger audience than we first thought and that we haven't punched the pompous git in the face.

But as Stoke-on-Trent is shortlisted to become the UK City of Culture in 2021, the area should be broadening its horizons for things to showcase. After all, it's facing some hefty competition, with the likes of Swansea and Coventry duelling for the same crown; and they have their own equivalents of popular food and industrial pasts.

A striking solution is comedy.

If you were to walk through one of the city's supermarkets, listening to the conversations people were having (which is something I admit to doing since it's three thousand times more entertaining than analysing the price of fish fingers), I guarantee they would put a smile on your face: whether it be the cheekiness of a child or a staff assistant destroying a customer with sarcasm, the humour would be abounding.

It's a similar story with the city's nightlife. This is another area that has been harangued in recent years for being lacklustre and losing class. However, many of the nightclubs - such as the popular Sugarmill and Underground venues - have simply moved with the times by creating oases of freedom. They may not all be upmarket and formal, but comedy doesn't abide by etiquette and dress codes; that's why it's so much fun to be funny.

The city's local theatres play host to dozens of popular comedians, with the likes of Jimmy Carr and Milton Jones coming back year after year, demonstrating the attraction of an increasingly vibrant and diverse area. But the theatres also create events to demonstrate the skills of currently unknown comics, and organisations such as the Stoke Rep Theatre regularly put on richly humorous performances delivered by local actors.

A further absurdly comical aspect of Stoke is, of course, the Pottrays accent and dialect. The Potteries accent is one of the best regional accents in the UK because of the simultaneous innocence and dominance that each sentence creates, making some people cringe but others cosy. It's the nonsensical use of words like "duck" and "ode" which triggers such hilarity and should be an essential part of the city's cultural campaign.

All humour is critical, but, if channelled in a productive way (like the area's determination to succeed and learn from past mistakes), then Stoke-on-Trent will have a golden opportunity to claim the City of Culture title. To win this competition, Stoke needs to showcase unique cultural aspects that are within the spirits of all of its brethren. Comedy is definitely one of them.


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