Festive period is the time to view our city in a new light

Later this week the city is going to throw the kitchen sink at its showpiece Christmas Lights switch-on event.
In addition to the usual trees and decorations, various buildings around Hanley will be lit up or open late as a one-off – showing the city centre in a completely new light.
They are calling it Light Night.
It wasn’t our idea – other cities have beaten us to it. Nevertheless, there’s no denying it’s a great way of showcasing some of Hanley’s architectural gems and opening people’s eyes to places they wouldn’t ordinarily take notice of.
Places like the Mitchell Memorial Youth Arts Centre, or, just up the road, the little-known AirSpace art gallery in that beautiful Victorian building on the corner of Broad Street.
We have a museum housing wonderful archaeological treasures and one of the finest theatres in the country.
Why shouldn’t we show them off?
At this time of grim austerity and in the wake of so many job cuts some may argue that shelling out tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on free entertainment, carnival costumes and even more baubles is an extravagance we simple can’t afford.
But if you ask me it is money well spent and exactly the kind of event we should be staging to help lift spirits and generate trade.
After all, we can’t consider ourselves to be a proper city if we aren’t able to put on a bit of a show to herald the start of the Christmas shopping bonanza.
So let’s stop moaning about how long the selection boxes have been on sale for.
Never mind how many times you have to listen to Slade on a loop in every shop.
Who cares how much it costs to park on the multi-storey?
The fact is we need the magic of Christmas now more than ever and we should enjoy every twinkling fairy light and every minute of the countdown – no matter how early it begins.
If you are from Stoke-on-Trent and of a certain age then a trip up to Fountain Square on Thursday afternoon should bring back some fond memories.
Yes, I know the other towns will all be having their own switch-on events but the truth is that it is shopping in Hanley that is a huge part of Christmas for generations of Potters.
Like me, you’ll no doubt recall standing in the freezing cold at some time waiting for the Santa parade to go past.
Like me you may also remember queuing for what seemed like an eternity to have two minutes with Father Christmas inside the wonderland that was the toy department at Lewis’s department store.
As much as I love Burslem, so much of Christmas is wrapped up in Hanley for me, and even I can appreciate just how important the success of the city centre is to the local economy.
That is why I’m hoping that Thursday’s shenanigans, coupled with the opening of the mammoth new Tesco superstore, will be just the shot in the arm Hanley needs.
Events like Light Night are what reinforce Hanley’s status as the city’s retail heart and anything which helps to draws the crowds and encourages them to spend money has to be a good thing.
Helpfully, Thursday is also highlighting what work remains to be done in order to create a city centre to be proud of.
If we can finally get the bus station rebuilt, restore Bethesda Chapel and think of a better use for the beautiful Town Hall then we will have a Cultural Quarter worthy of the name and a town capable of attracting shoppers from further afield as well as tourists.
There are those who bemoan the commercialisation of Christmas and urge us to remember the real “reason for the season”.
But why can’t we enjoy both?
For many of us a day-long present-buying expedition to Hanley, a visit to Santa’s Grotto in the Potteries Shopping Centre or a night out to see the Regent Theatre’s pantomime are as much a part of Christmas as turkey with all the trimmings or listening to carols from King’s.


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