The Leopard Hotel in Burslem has played host to some big names during its long history.
A couple of years ago none other than the crown prince of pop music himself, Robert Williams esquire, turned up with his entourage to engage in a night of ghost-hunting at the famous hostelry.
It is not known whether our Rob communed with the spirits of guests who once frequented the ‘Savoy of the Midlands’ as The Leopard was known.
However, he certainly followed in the footsteps of some illustrious names that night.
Names like Josiah Wedgwood and James Brindley who met in the Burslem hotel 248 years ago next month, to be precise, to discuss the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Yes, some of the great pioneers of the industrial revolution once supped at The Leopard and tonight their modern day equivalents will be doing just the same. Sort of.
The Sentinel’s digital staff – the people in charge of our online operation – have organised ‘a tweet-up’ this evening.
OK. I’ll admit I had to look up what it meant. Basically, a ‘tweet-up’ is a face-to-face gathering of people who use Twitter.
In this instance, it’s a chance for users of the social network to meet up with their favourite/most annoying Sentinel journalists and, crucially, other influential Twitter users from our neck of the woods.
I can’t promise that the conversations will be as deep and meaningful as the one had by Wedgwood and Brindley in March 1765 but we’ll give it a go.
Tonight’s meeting of ‘tweeps’ (check me out with the lingo) underlines just how much The Sentinel has changed since I first arrived at Etruria 15 years ago.
Back then email was in its infancy, this newspaper didn’t have its own website and there was no such thing as Twitter or Facebook.
Nowadays our ‘digital audience’ (people who visit The Sentinel’s website) is more than 513,000 a month and this figure is continuing to grow at a rapid pace.
The immediacy of the internet trumps newspapers, television and even radio reporting and it’s something that even Luddites like me have had to embrace.
Indeed, most journalists would be worried if it weren’t for the fact that so much of what’s written on the web is nonsense and, thankfully, people still rely on trusted brands for their information.
Sentinel newspaper. Sentinel website. It’s all still The Sentinel, I guess.
What’s interesting to me is the kind of people from our patch who use Twitter to communicate with their friends/colleagues/contacts/fans and the wider world.
You’d be suprised at who’s tweeting and perhaps, more so, by who isn’t.
Stoke City and Port Vale players, darts maestros Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis, England cricketer Danielle Wyatt, mobile phones billionaire John Caudwell, the Chief Constable of Staffordshire, Vale chairman Paul Wildes, stage star Jonny Wilkes, your MPs, local councillors, and the chief executives of some major employers locally, to name but a few, are all at it.
What’s more, some of them even write their own tweets. (You can usually tell by the spelling mistakes).
Tonight a fair few of them will be meeting up at The Leopard.
In a pub that’s more than 250 years old a bunch of people, some of whom have only ever met ‘virtually’, will be brought together by the wonders of modern technology and the promise of a pint.
Yours truly (@MartinTideswell) is even being forced to miss watching Vale beating Wimbledon just up the road in order to be there.
Hacked-off because there’s too much Stoke City and not enough Port Vale in the paper? Or vice-versa? Our Sports Editor Keith Wales (@SentinelSportEd) will be having his ear bent about that old chestnut.
Want to talk campaigns or have an issue with one of our stories? The Sentinel’s Editor-in-Chief
(@MikeSassi) will be explaining his thinking.
Have a question about The Sentinel’s Business Awards? Our Business Editor (@annking) can probably help.
Fancy venting your spleen about the city council’s plan to relocate its civic HQ from Stoke to Hanley? Our local government reporter Alex Campbell (@CouncilReporter) will be only too happy to listen.
Then there’s our star turn – my columnist colleague and ascerbic TV critic John Woodhouse
(@jwoody67), who will be doing a Twitter-related stand up routine. I kid you not. (He’s quite good, actually).
I just have one request: If you’re one of the Twitter users who’s going along to The Leopard tonight, go easy on my colleagues, won’t you?
Most of them don’t normally leave the safety of The Sentinel’s bunker to meet their followers/readers in person.
In fact, it might be better at the start if you limit your conversations to 140 characters until they all get the hang of this talking lark.
Mine’s a Diet Pepsi and a bag of dry roasted peanuts, by the way. Cheers.
*To sign up for tonight’s tweet-up email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
*A video of tonight’s tweet-up will be posted on The Sentinel’s website at 9am tomorrow.
Read my Personally Speaking columns in The Sentinel every Tuesday