Exciting events will take place this weekend to mark the public opening of Stoke-on-Trent’s new Spitfire Gallery at the Potteries Museum – including a special RAF flypast at 12.34pm on Saturday.
Two days of amazing events will take place this weekend to mark the public opening of Stoke-on-Trent’s stunning new Spitfire Gallery – including a special RAF flypast.
Celebrations and activities are planned on Saturday and Sunday, September 18 and 19, at several city centre locations.
The events will take place as visitors get their first glimpse of the restored RW388 Spitfire inside its new £5.4 million home at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.
The weekend’s activities are due to include the RAF Spitfire flypast. Subject to RAF timings and weather conditions, onlookers should be able to spot one of the remaining iconic planes soaring over Stoke-on-Trent, close to the museum in Bethesda Street, Hanley, at about 12.38pm on Saturday.
There will also be an array of other fun and fascinating events for everyone to enjoy, such as craft workshops for children, street performers, living history groups, special film screenings, talks, music and lots more.
The activities are due to take place at locations including the museum, Smithfield, Mitchell Art Centre, Bethesda Chapel and Gardens, Piccadilly, the Regent Theatre, the Potteries Centre, and City Central Library.
Councillor Lorraine Beardmore, cabinet member for culture, leisure and public health, said: “We’re so excited for this weekend of wonderful activities. There really is something for everyone and all generations – including fun craft activities, street performers, music and some truly incredible insights into life during the Second World War. There really is going to be a fantastic atmosphere in the city centre this weekend and it would be great to see everyone come down on Saturday and Sunday to experience all of the celebrations on offer.
“As well as the events and activities, it’s also the public’s first chance to see the absolutely incredible new Spitfire Gallery and it’s star attraction, the RW388 Spitfire. And it has to be seen to be believed. This is about creating memories that stay with you throughout your life. You can’t help but be amazed when you walk into the space and see the plane – and learning more about its story is so fascinating and inspiring. This new exhibition really is a must see – and it’s free to anyone who visits the museum.”
Councillor Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration, infrastructure and heritage, said: “Being able to invite visitors into this world-class attraction is the culmination of an incredible regeneration project which will help us to power up Stoke-on-Trent and build back better from the pandemic. It has created a truly stunning location for visitors, residents and people working here – and I’m delighted that the public will be able to experience that for the first time from Saturday.
“This is another fantastic example of a heritage-led regeneration project that changes the landscape of Stoke-on-Trent for the better. It’s a huge boost for the area and the incredible national interest so far this week, and since the VIP launch today, has shown was an asset the Spitfire Gallery will be for our city in the future.”
The weekend of events includes:
• D-Day Darlings concert - Friday, September 17, 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the museum. £20 per person - an evening of wartime music from the Britain’s Got Talent 2018 finalists.
Saturday and Sunday
• 1940s fun fair stalls – fun for everyone to try out, as well as a vintage refreshment van. 10am to 4pm at the museum.
• Circus skills workshop. Fun with Circus Sensible. 11am to 4pm at Bethesda Chapel and Gardens
• Street performers. The Dodo Rider by Dizzy O Dare, Sweep of Swallows by Bird in a Hand Theatre, and Mr Strong Stilt Walker
by Circus House. Smithfield and along Piccadilly during both days.
• The Beach - a day of beach play. 10am to 4.30pm at Smithfield.
• Flycycle at the Beach by Pif Paf. 11.30am to 12.15pm, 2.30pm to 3.15pm at Smithfield.
• World War II display. Saturday, 12pm to 3pm and Sunday 1pm to 3pm at Bethesda Chapel and Gardens.
• RAF Spitfire Flypast – subject to RAF timings and weather conditions. Scheduled for 12.38pm, close to the museum.
• Children’s make a medal session – make a medal to take home. 10.15am to 11.15am, 11.45am to 12.45pm and 2pm to 3pm, at the museum.
• Cosford RAF Museum family activities. 10am to 4pm at the museum.
• Spirit of the Home Front – with a model Anderson shelter, Bevan Boys and a civil defence display. 10am to 4pm at the museum.
• Dome film - 360-degree immersive film, combining cinematically recreated battle scenes and political events with original film and photographs. 10am to 4pm at the museum.
• Film screening - Battle of Britain. 2pm at the museum.
• Talk - discover how food was used as medicine, recycling top tips and recipes. Pre-booking required - call 01782 232323. 1pm at the museum.
• Victory Belles – find out more about the role of the Land Army – includes sessions for children to create rag rugs. 10am to 4pm at Smithfield.
• Family at War – find out what life was like with this living history group. 10am to 4pm at the museum.
• Paul Barry’s Swing Band. Includes two jitter bug dancers – 10.45am, 12pm,1.15pm and 2.30pm at the museum.
• Secret War listening station. 10am to 4pm at the museum.
• Display of vintage cars and war wheels military vehicles. 10am to 4pm at Smithfield.
• Spitfire arts and crafts workshop. For ages seven to 14. Book online at atgtickets.com/venues/regent-theatre . 10am, 11am and 12pm at the Regent Theatre.
• Film screening: The Spitfire & Me – Reginald Mitchell. Book seats in advance at https://mitchellartscentre.co.uk/the-spitfire-me-reginald-mitchell . 10am, 1.30pm and 2.15pm at the Mitchell Art Centre.
• Children’s paint a Spitfire session. Suitable for ages three to 12. Drop-in sessions (allow 30 minutes to complete activity). 10am to 2pm at the Mitchell Art Centre.
• Film screening: Disney Pixar - Planes. Tickets are £3.50 per child, one adult goes free per paying child. Buy tickets online at https://mitchellartscentre.co.uk/planes . 11am at the Mitchell Art Centre.
• Craft and story time activity. Drop-in sessions. 11am to 1pm at City Central Library.
• Activities linked to the celebration. Throughout the day at the Potteries Centre.
• Anything to Anywhere talk and cream tea – The History’s Maid group tell the story of the brave Air Transport Auxiliary women. Tickets £12, with cream tea. To book, call 01782 232323. 1pm at the museum.
• Film screening - Spitfire Birth of a Legend. Sunday, 2pm at the museum.
• Ringmaster by Artizani. Smithfield and along Piccadilly during the day.
• The Baghdaddies marching band. Along Piccadilly during the day.
• Live street art and DJ. DJ timed sessions from 10am to 5pm at Smithfield.
• Polish Squad 303 and ground crew group. 10am to 4pm at the museum.
• Replica Spitfire on display. Throughout the day at Smithfield.
• ATA strolling performers. 10am to 4pm at the museum.
Extra details on some of the specific events are available below. For more details, go to visitstoke.co.uk. Information is also available at stokemuseums.org.uk
Stoke-on-Trent’s iconic Spitfire and its stunning new museum gallery were unveiled for the first time today, Wednesday, September 15 - the day which marks the RAF’s victory in the Battle of Britain.
A VIP launch event was held at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery’s new glass-fronted extension, with guests including Armed Forces dignitaries, veterans, air cadets, local historians, faith leaders and Operation Spitfire members.
Among those attending the private launch on Wednesday was Spitfire engineer Reginald Mitchell’s great-nephew Julian Mitchell.
The city’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Dr Chandra Kanneganti, and Mr Mitchell officially opened the new gallery, which has been designed and built by Morgan Sindall Construction and funded by the city council.
The public will be able to access the exhibition – which includes the iconic RW388 Spitfire and a host of other fascinating displays - for the first time from Saturday.
Part of the gallery will be used to project video, animations and images about the plane and its designer, Reginald Mitchell, who lived in Normacot and was educated in Stoke-on-Trent before becoming one of the greatest aeronautical engineers of his generation.
The exhibition has been funded through a successful bid for £210,000 from a joint funding pot run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation. Further funding totalling £47,000 was also raised with help from Operation Spitfire, The Friends of the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, and through visitors’ donations.
The 3,800 square foot extension has glass walls at the front and back, so people will also be able to see the plane lit up at night.
The museum’s café has also been updated with a more modern look as part of the work, and the public realm has been improved outside the gallery.
Stoke-on-Trent’s Spitfire had been in a workshop at an airfield 200 miles away in Kent for the past three years, where specialists spent hundreds of hours painstakingly restoring it to its former glory.
Events – more details
For more details, go to visitstoke.co.uk. Details also available at stokemuseums.org.uk
Friday Twilight - The D-Day Darlings
Friday, September 17, 7.30pm to 9.30pm, £20 per person. Celebrate the return of the city’s Spitfire RW388 with an evening of music from Britain’s Got Talent 2018 finalists the D-Day Darlings.
The audience will enjoy songs which lifted the spirits of a nation both on the frontline and at home during the Second World War. The UK’s premier wartime singing group honour the conflict’s heroes with a selection of stunning original songs and reimagined arrangements.
The five-piece group will cover classic songs from the 1940s including Dame Vera Lynn’s White Cliffs Of Dover, We’ll Meet Again and many more.
The bar opens at 6.30pm, with photographic opportunities available with the group underneath the museum’s iconic Spitfire.
Tickets are £20 per person. Please call 01782 232323 or email MuseumEvents@stoke.gov.uk to make a booking.
Cream tea and Anything to Anywhere talk with History’s Maid – Sunday, September 19 at 1pm.
Join History’s Maid and hear the story of the brave women of the Air Transport Auxiliary who worked as pilots in the Second World War, ferrying aircraft across the county, often with no instructions or manuals. They also flew service personnel on urgent duty from one place to another and performed some air ambulance missions. These women came from all walks of life, and made history as the first women ever to receive the same pay as their male colleagues.
The talk, at 1pm, costs £12 per ticket and includes a cream tea. Please call 01782 232323 or email MuseumEvents@stoke.gov.uk to make a booking.
Spitfire RW388’s history and restoration
Donated to Stoke-on-Trent in 1972 in memory of its designer, Reginald Mitchell, who was educated and lived in the city, this was a low altitude fighter with clipped wings and it was powered by a Packard Merlin 266 engine.
RW388 was one of a batch of 1,500 Spitfire XVIs manufactured at Castle Bromwich in 1945, too late to see any war service.
First taken on charge by No. 6 MU at RAF Brize Norton on July 18, 1945, a month later it was issued to No. 667 Squadron where it sustained damage in a flying accident.
It was taken to No. 411 Repair and Salvage Unit on December 30 for repair and in 1946 it was sent to High Ercall for storage before returning to RAF Brize Norton on January 12, 1949.
By 1951, RW388 had been allocated to No. 612 Squadron where it remained for six months before going to the Fighter Command Control and Reporting School.
After being damaged a second time, it was retired and installed as a display aircraft ‘gate guardian’ at RAF Benson and RAF Andover, finishing up as a showpiece at the Royal Tournament and Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
In 1972 the Spitfire was presented to Stoke-on-Trent by Air Chief Marshall Sir Neil Wheeler.
It was on display at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery before being taken away for restoration in 2018.
On Monday, February 5, 2018 the Spitfire arrived into the workshop of Medway Aircraft Preservation Society. Three years of painstaking restoration work then followed.
Unfortunately, much of the interior of this aircraft was stripped before it was presented to the city, however, many parts have been procured or replicas have been made as part of its restoration.
In June it returned to the museum to be housed in the new, specially-made extension.
It was then transported back to Stoke-on-Trent in June, with a huge crane finally lifting the precious cargo into its new home