This blog post is inspired by wondering an abandoned bus station in the city centre of my hometown. I’m originally from Stoke-on-Trent AKA The Potteries given the city’s industrial heritage. Bit of trivia: Stoke was the 15th most pro-Leave area (15/~400) in the 2016 UK EU Referendum.
It’s all very easy to fall into the trap of calling these people ‘stupid’. In the immediate aftermath and shock, I too fell into that trap. It’s particularly tempting when the media reinforce the impulse with extracted, influential generalisations such as “Those with no education tended to vote Brexit” although when you look at the data, age and particularly class were far more divisive. However, there is a legitimate reason for the majority of people to vote Leave as we’ve also seen a similarly frustrated anti-establishment uprising in the US, culminating in Trump’s presidency.
I’ve lived in Surrey for two and a half years which ranks around top 10, 11th in recent years, for quality of life – Stoke-on-Trent around 83/138. A lot of people don’t realise there are some really tough places where people struggle to live in the UK. And it’s neither side’s fault. Having arguably experienced the most well and worst off, I understand the feelings towards both sides: Remain or Leave. They’ve lived their discrete lives with their own issues respectively. When the system works for you and there are ample opportunities to progress yourself and live happily, of course there’s nothing to change: Remain. If it’s not working and conditions don’t seem to ever improve: Leave. This is how 52% of the UK felt and I ask those who are angry at the Leavers, can you really blame them when the system isn’t working for them? What else are they supposed to do?
If I’m honest with myself, I’m a thinker. A thinker much more than a doer. When I visit home, I think about how to improve areas like Stoke. How to regenerate the decay. How to provide meaningful and valuable jobs and opportunities to progress for the people struggling here. How to prevent and use waste in all forms including rubbish and human potential. These thoughts are with me as I wonder into town and come across the abadoned bus station I remember from childhood 17 years ago up until I last used it around 3 years ago.
Alongside pottery, Stoke-on-Trent has a proud, definitely neglected, and almost forgotten heritage, for example, being home to the Spitfire’s chief designer Sir Reginald Mitchell, without which the Battle of Britain and thereafter the Second World War most likely would’ve been lost. Just think about that for a moment.
Rent/food/living is really cheap, Keele University is a pretty good, there’s plenty of countryside to explore and the people are generally very kind, with the warm and endearing quasi-working class West Midlands accent. In 2016, Stoke-on-Trent was recognised as the second best city in the UK for starting a business. I am filled with hope for my hometown.