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International Ceramics Festival Stoke On Trent

Head with figures Glenys Barton at the Potteries museum

British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) Stoke On Trent 2019

The international ceramics festival is fast approaching it final weekend but there is still time to catch it as it runs until the 13th of October. Now in its 6th festival and 10th anniversary year it features the works of both international, national, and aspiring ceramicists. This was my third visit and I can honestly say it gets better with each biennial. With over 300 artists and makers spread across 25 exhibitions and projects this year’s features more works than ever before.

Instillations in the AWARD section of the exhibition.
John Rainey figure

Some of the featured works having wonderful back stories making the works on show both emotive and evocative. BCB also involves international artist exchange this year in Japan, China, Korea and India, with works produced on display in the Spode China Hall. As you visit the various venues taking part in the festival you cannot miss the “Cast of Thousands” over 2000 ceramic figures made by local schoolchildren as part of the BCB CLAY school project. It is also possible to book a guided tour of the main exhibition in the China Hall. We id and it was well worth it. As the tour is primarily focused on the works of the nominees for the AWARD the main prize of £10.000 its offers a great insight and depth both into both the works on display and the artist behind them.

Ceramic instillation by Zoe Preece
Poignant instillation by Vicky Lindo & William Brookes
View of the exhibition space Spode China Hall

Whilst the main exhibition is held in the wonderful and cavernous Spode China Hall famous potteries across the Stoke regions also take p[art in the festival too, many offering free workshops and the opportunity to create and get your hands stuck into some clay.

Duncan Hooson of the Clayground collective, an evolving instillation at the Wedgwood Museum
Working jug.

Even better entry to the various pottery museums is free for the duration of the festival. The main centers of display and activity include the China Hall, the Airspace Gallery, Middleport Pottery, The potteries Museum and Art Gallery Spode museum Trust Heritage center and last but by no means least World of Wedgwood. For those intending to visit using public transport there is a free shuttle bus to take you to the various aforementioned venues. Middleport port has a very nice café which is if the weather is good offers seating by the adjacent canal. World of Wedgwood offers its lavish afternoon high tea as well as its dining hall which offers a very good value carvery on Sundays.  

Bottle kiln Middleport Pottery

My top tip to anyone visiting is to both book any of the activities you wish to take part in in advance and also to allow at least a couple of days for your visit. Put simply, it’s just too much to fully take in, appreciate, and absorb in a one day visit.

Old Wedgwood Press moulds.
An instillation by Korean artist Wookjae Maeng

Europe Spain

A Travel Blog Guide in pictures Ronda in Andalusia Spain

Day tripping Ronda, Andalucía, Spain, a travel blog in pictures,mainly!

If you are planning on travel to Andalucía and are staying in either Malaga, or Marbella for that matter, then at the very least a day trip to Ronda should be on your trip list. If you use the toll roads, as we did, from Malaga you can quite easily get there in about an hour and a half. Well worth the trip if the sun is shining and the sky blue. The old town is utterly charming with spectacular views. The City of Ronda is situated on two hills divided by a deep ravine (El Tajo de Ronda) containing the Grande River, which is an affluent of the Guadiaro River. The ravine is crossed by several bridges, notably an arch structure 300 feet (90 metres) high built in 1761. The town occupies the site of an ancient Iberian settlement and was known in Roman times as Acinipo. It was occupied by the Moors from the 8th to the 15th century, when it was reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, on May 20, 1485. Both Roman and Moorish remains survive, including a Roman theatre and an underground staircase (restored in 1911) built from the town to the river by the Moors to prevent water blockades in times of war. Spain’s oldest bullring, a stone Neoclassical structure (c. 1785), is also found in Ronda; it is now a museum.

There are well located metal street maps throughout the old town.

The city of Ronda is one of the oldest in Spain and occupies the site of an ancient Iberian settlement and  known in Roman times as Acinipo.

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Europe Spain

Travel Guide to Malaga, Andalucia, Spain

My picture travel blog guide & Top 11 things I learned about Malaga

It’s that time of the year in the UK when the days seem interminably short and skies too often a leaden grey and streets awash with rain. Of course with airlines such as Ryan Air offering  fantastically cheap flights to any number of EU destinations why would you stay amidst the gloom. Given that about 95% of the time it’s actually cheaper to go abroad on holiday than it is to stay in the UK and that’s even after you factor in the Brexit effect on our currency the benefits of abroad still stack up. So I searched out a good deals in locations where  there was a reasonable chance of catching some rays and warming heat of the sun on my face and landed on Malaga.

Not having been to Malaga before it felt like a bit of a gamble, more so as the that part of Spain is not generally known for its high culture and there was always the danger of a plane load of hens and stags. There were some, but they all seemed to be headed further down the coast, maybe to Marbella and Fuengirola as there was little evidence of party people on the streets of Malaga day or night. In fact Malaga turned out to be an unexpected revelation and is now on my list of top favorite European cities, although that would most likely just apply outside the main holiday seasons as I’m sure it must get pretty packed during high season. Never mind, the weather was glorious for the four days I was there, just the sort of relief needed from the grey sludge of Manchester in January.

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The British Ceramics Biennial Stoke-On-Trent Travel Blog Post

The Fifth British Ceramics Biennial (BCB)

Stoke On Trent 2017
Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a huge pottery and ceramics fan, in fact so much so I have run out of space to house what I already have never mind adding more, which I continue to do!. Well for pottery and ceramic lovers like myself this is the must visit/see event of the year every two years, if you know what I mean, and not to be missed, given that it’s only on every second year, biennial right! Myself and Oliver had visited the event for the first time in 2015 and liked it so much had planned a full weekend around this year’s visit. Sadly Oliver’s Dad passed away requiring Oliver’s return to Malaysia so this visit was solo and this post is dedicated to the memory of Oliver’s Dad, may he rest in peace.

The event is staged across nine venues in and around Stoke-On-Trent including the fabulous Wedgwood museum which offers free entry to the museum during the biennial. In fact the event offers free entry to all venues making it an attractive draw for all. There is also lots of interactive events aimed at families with kids. A great way to introduce the next and coming generations to the wonderful world of ceramics and pottery. The main exhibition hub is located in the China Spode Factory dating from 1770 a fabulous location, if a little on the chilly side, or at least at this time of the year (October).

Eusebio Sanchez won this biennials Fresh award with his quirky colorful and molten figures, and although they may not be to everyone’s taste I loved them.

Spode China Hall

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Europe Germany

Berlin Holiday Weekender Travel Blog

The Berlin Blockade lasted 318 days during which time, 275,000 planes transported 1.5 million tons of supplies with a plane landing every three minutes at Berlin’s Templehof airport. The old airport runway and surrounding fields have now been transformed into a large open park.

Berlin…………city of myth, city of history, city of division, city of rebirth. Whenever a mention of Berlin I can immediately hear in my head the soundtrack to the movie Cabaret, und cabaret, und cabaret, und cabaret, made famous by Liza Minnelli in the movie of the same name. That and Christopher Isherwood who wrote the wonderful novels, Goodbye to Berlin and Mr Norris Changes Trains, all topped off in the background to the smoky husky tones of Marlene Dietrich’s very special brand of drawl English.

Hauptbahnhof Berlin central railway station

I had first planned to visit Berlin as a teenager at the invitation of some Viennese visitors I met one summer in Dublin. They had invited me to join them on a trip to the city to spend Christmas in a Berlin squat. That was in the early 1980’s if memory serves me correctly. In the end they decided to stay in Vienna for the Christmas, so I went there instead. My only other connection with the city, unfortunately, had a more sinister outcome. On a subsequent visit to what was still known as Czechoslovakia, and still at the time part of the USSR, I happened to meet and form a friendship with a guy from East Berlin who was on his annual holiday in the Czech capital, Prague. For people living in the USSR and including East Germany it was basically one of a very limited number of places that citizens of what was then known as  GDR were allowed to visit, as well as being virtually all they could afford anyway. On my return to Ireland we exchanged a number of letters and I, in my naivety at the time, was quite open about how repressive I thought the communist system and the USSR. He, for his part, was quite open about how difficult, depressing and limiting life was in East Berlin, until one day about a year later one of my letters was returned, stamped person and address unknown. That was the last time I heard from him and to this day I still do not know what fate befell him, but I held him in my thoughts as I visited the remains of the Berlin Wall and the East Side Gallery.


Only now, August 2017, have I finally managed to make it to Berlin and these are my impressions of the city and its people.

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Europe UK

Sheffield in 24 A Travel bloggers guide to the City


Sheffield in 24

An action packed city adventure


Guide book to Sheffield

Despite having visited Sheffield twice before in the past it took an invitation from the Mercure “St Pauls Hotel and Spa” for me to truly discover what this oft overlooked UK city has to offer.

I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of travel and lifestyle bloggers to be invited for an action packed 24 hour city visit.

St Pauls Hotel and Spa, being Sheffield’s only 4 * Hotel, is the perfect spot to stay, being centrally located, and as if that wasn’t enough, it also boasts doors leading directly onto the fabulous Tropical Winter Gardens. Having stayed at the Mercure in the past I arrived early, check in is 2pm, in order to take full advantage of the hotels Spa and Pool, free to use for hotel guests, it also offers a range of therapies and massages at an additional cost. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the spa area has had a makeover, with both the steam sauna and dry sauna benefiting from a complete overhaul, this is the perfect way to unwind before heading out for the evening.

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Asia Cambodia

Leaving Phnom Penh, Travel bloggers tips and tales

Leaving Phnom Penh For Sihanoukville

Having left it too late to buy a ticket for the Giant Ibis bus to Sihanoukville the hotel we stayed at recommended another bus company which they claimed is just as good, and, as it costs the same I take the bait, buy the tickets, how wrong can you be. We ended up with tickets on Vet bus run by Virak-Buntham Express Travel & Tour. Like most bus companies in Cambodia they collect you from your hotel about an hour before scheduled departure time. The pickup van, a dilapidated and rusting wreck, from the hotel told me this was going to be an interesting experience come what may. Whilst the actual minivan bus turned out not to be too bad what no one could prepare you for was the insane driver to match the general level of insane driving that is Cambodian road travel. And yes, I have lived to tell the tale, but I reckon the stress of the journey may well knock a couple of years off my life expectancy.  To give you some idea of the speed we went at we managed to pass the Giant Ibis bus plying the same route, but which had left Phnom Pen and hour before our departure time. In reality we had little choice as we had a hotel reservation in Sihanoukville and a well-planned itinerary. The next bus journey to Kampot turned out to be equally as hair raising, although mercifully half the distance. In a word never again!!


Otres Beach Sihanoukville

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Asia Cambodia

The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)

The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)

Both of these places are the main draws for travelers to Phnom Penh and visited on the same day by most as a combined package. It makes for a somber, sober and saddening day, planting memories of images and scenes that are likely to stay with you and last a lifetime. No bad thing, although we did witness some disrespectful idiots taking selfies in an around the Stupa that houses the skulls of the dead. Whilst another group of young adult Australians I witnessed were loud and behaved as if they were visiting a theme park. At the risk of sounding, or being, preachy visitors should show their respect for all who died in these dreadful places by observing an air of solemn calm and quiet reflection.

The Entrance to Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

The Killing Fields, once the site of an orchard, memorialises and symbolises the final expressions of barbarity of the Khmer Rouge,  the final resting place for the murdered, located about 17 Kilometres outside Phnom Penh most arrive here by Tuk Tuk.

The Memorial Stupa. This Stupa houses the skulls of many of the victims found buried around the site now known as the Killing Fields. Depressions in the ground are the sites of excavated mass graves.

It is estimated that from a population of some 8 million people about a quarter were either murdered or starved to death during the reign of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. For me, although witness of the remains of the mass graves is an awful reality, the most harrowing and difficult to comprehend aspect of the place is the Killing Tree that was used to kill babies and children in the most horrific fashion by bashing their skulls against it. I cried a lot this day and in the end despaired for us as a race when my thoughts turned to current day events taking place in Syria at the behest of another couple of murderous dictators, Assad and Putin. For the sad truth is, humanity it seems will never learn.

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Europe UK

North Wales Off The Beaten Track

Day Tripping North Wales, Walking in Sunshine, Almost!

With the first weekend of proper blue sky sunshine upon us and a bit of heat in the air to accompany, thoughts turn to getting out of the city, even if just for a day and heading into the countryside.

Living in Manchester we are lucky enough to have a host of easy to reach destinations whether traveling north, south, east or west. That said, it is never a difficult one you make in choosing Wales, one of my favorite places on the planet. It doesn’t matter how far or wide I travel this globe of ours I never tire of trips to Wales, where even a familiar landscape causes me to smile as the light shows it in a subtle different and ever changing fresh perspective.

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Asia Cambodia

A Travel Bloggers Impressions of Phnom Penh

A Travel Bloggers Impressions of Phnom Penh Cambodia in Words & Pictures

Monument to the late King Norodom Sihanouk with independence monument in background

I first visited Phnom Penh about 4 years ago and was struck this visit by the rate of change and the speed of development taking place in this city on the move.  This is fast turning in to and exciting vibrant and great city to visit in South East Asia. No longer just a stopping post for visiting the Killing Fields and S21 but is fast becoming a destination city in itself.


Memorial statue and monument to the Vietnamese army for their part in driving the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh

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