Neil Brownsword lecture 2
Date: 5th Apr 2016
A Buckinghamshire New University professor has spoken of the importance of preserving and repurposing the heritage and skills native to the post-industrial city of Stoke-on-Trent, during his inaugural professorial lecture.
Professor Neil Brownsword, from the School of Arts and Creative Industries at Bucks New University, described how the home of the UK pottery industry, which has suffered a sharp decline in production and significant factory closures throughout the past three decades, now has numerous derelict spaces that for centuries were key to the city’s economic and physical landscape.
Professor Brownsword said: “The decline of the pottery industry was a result of increased global competition, a shift in consumer trends, and the fact that labour costs abroad were a fraction of the costs here. The UK companies that managed to stay profitable were ones that evolved to mass-produce generic everyday items at affordable prices in line with market demands.
“My practice-based research is centred on preserving the inherent knowledge, craftsmanship and artistry that existed throughout North Staffordshire at companies such as Wedgwood and Spode, as well as documenting the significant number of oral histories that would otherwise be lost.”
During the lecture, Professor Brownsword described his research project Topographies of the Obsolete, which explores the site-specific and associated histories of post-industrial landscapes. The project is a joint venture between Bucks New University, Bergen Academy of Art and Design and other institutions in Denmark, Germany and the UK.
Professor Brownsword said: “When Spode collapsed, an opportunity was missed to preserve its heritage and create an archive of its history. Through our research project, we have been able to use the original Spode site for creative interpretation through socio-economic histories, industrial architecture, production and material remnants.
“A number of artistic strategies have been used, some of which have included mapping the site using various media, lens-based work and performative gesture.”
The lecture, which took place at the University’s High Wycombe campus, was chaired by Professor Jake Kaner, Head of Research for the Faculty of Design, Media and Management.
Professor Kaner said: “Professor Brownsword’s work focuses on the Potteries in North Staffordshire, but the issues raised can be applied to many other post-industrial towns and regions. The research and its methods are therefore interesting on a global level as cities across the world are constantly evaluating changes to manufacturing and post-manufacturing regions.
“This is clearly a topic which has wide interest and it was rewarding to see such good attendance at the lecture.”
Picture: Professor Jake Kaner and Professor Neil Brownsword at the lecture.