Top tourism honour for iconic poppies sculpture

Published: Friday, 7th December 2018

Civic leaders have been presented with one of the county’s highest tourism awards in recognition of the stunning success of an iconic ceramic poppies sculpture.

More than 122,000 people visited Poppies: Weeping Window at Middleport Pottery in just six weeks during the summer – three times more than its target – and brought £4 million into the local economy. Now the installation, which commemorated soldiers who fought and lost their lives in the First World War, has been named the best visitor experience of the year at the 2018 Enjoy Staffordshire Tourism Awards.

Stoke-on-Trent Lord Mayor Lilian Dodd today (Thursday) presented the award at a meeting of all Stoke-on-Trent City Council councillors. Deputy leader Abi Brown, who chaired the steering group that delivered the poppies, and councillor Anthony Munday, cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, received the award.

Judges at the awards praised the team behind Poppies: Weeping Window, which was jointly presented by the city council and Middleport Pottery, for its professionalism, attention to detail and successful contribution to tourism development.

The sculpture was presented in the city as part of a country-wide tour organised by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.

Councillor Brown, who led the bid to secure the sculpture from 2015, said: “Alongside our partner Middleport Pottery, we’re thrilled to have won the title; it is recognition of a huge amount of effort from a wide range of partners across the city. The award recognises visitor experiences of a ‘significant and memorable nature’ and to have hosted such an iconic sculpture shows our city can not only deliver nationally and internationally significant events and cultural activities, but deliver them to exceedingly high standards.

“I’m delighted that judges have praised the work to design and deliver the event, which took many months of careful planning.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved in putting on the event including the hundreds of volunteers who gave their time to provide such a warm welcome and support to visitors.”

The sculpture, which was strikingly displayed cascading down a bottle kiln at the factory, attracted visitors from across Staffordshire, and the UK including London, Liverpool and Birmingham. It also attracted international visitors from Dubai, Istanbul, Zurich, Auckland and Athens.

The sculpture is from the installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ –by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, in conjunction with Historic Royal Palaces. The installation was originally at HM Tower of London from August to November 2014 where 888,246 poppies were displayed, one for every British or Colonial life lost at the Front during the First World War. It will now become part of the Imperial War Museum’s collection.

Stoke-on-Trent was integral to the original installation, as a base for the creation of just under half of the ceramic poppies. The city also provided the clay that the poppies were created from.

Councillor Munday, who is the city’s Armed Forces Champion, said: “The sculpture has become world-renown and the setting at Middleport Pottery provided the perfect backdrop, recognising the city’s ceramics heritage and role in supporting the installation. It was particularly poignant to host the installation during the centenary of the end of the First World War. It created a huge amount of civic pride and showed our city at its creative and cultural best.”

The 2018 Enjoy Staffordshire Tourism Awards took place at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas on 22 November. In total, awards were given across 13 categories. Gladstone Pottery Museum won a silver award under the heading of inclusive tourism.

Middleport Pottery director Clare Wood said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won Best Tourism Experience of the Year, in amongst some very worthy competition. This award is a real testament to the hard work and dedication of staff and volunteers from Middleport Pottery/United Kingdom Historic Building Preservation Trust and Stoke-on-Trent City Council who worked tirelessly over many months to ensure all visitors had an enjoyable and memorable experience.”

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