More Than 100 Stories is a commission led by artists Sarah Butler and Nicole Mollet that explores and creatively maps the Creative People and Places programme.

Meeting the People - a day with Appetite


On Wednesday 22nd June Nicole Mollett got a lift with Karl from West Bromwich to Stoke to meet some of the people who are involved in the Appetite programme. Main image taken inside the Spode factory, Stoke.

INside Spode Factory

The ‘behind the scenes’ of all the Creative People and Places projects are interesting places in and of themselves. The realities of the daily commute, seeing where their offices are based, looking out from the window, and finding what is tucked away in the storage cupboard. Sarah and I both feel lucky to have had brief insights into these worlds.

Stoke was the last of my CPP visits, and in many (good) ways one of the most demystifying. I joined Karl on his daily commute along the M6 to the New Vic Theatre (lead organisation on the Appetite consortium), Staffordshire, just on the border of Stoke city. We chatted about the consortium, how more and more audiences are logging onto the Appetite website via their mobile phones, and what his ambitions for this year are. We arrived at his office, which is a fairly small room on a balcony overlooking the theatre lobby. One of the plus points to this location was being able to see the performers practise. For example as we entered an excited gaggle of actors were rehearsing an aerial version of Peter Pan. Now that does sounds like a good way to beat the admin blues!

The first person Karl had arranged for me to meet was Ayad, an Iraq asylum seeker who has been living in Stoke for approximately two and a bit years. He was very friendly, articulate, and dignified. However as he opened up, I realised this was also a matter of pride, he has been waiting to hears the news on his claim for asylum for 3 years now, and it has left him feeling fearful, alienated and uncertain. He described it as ‘waiting in limbo’. He desperately wants to get out and work, earn money and make a home, but until he knows whether he can stay, he is not permitted to do anything. He told he how when he was introduced to Appetite at the Big Feast in 2014, he was intrigued and wanted to know more, so he started to attend the Supper Clubs. There he found he was made to feel welcome, and was able to make a new network of friends, and connect with strangers.

Attending Appetite events has given him a sense of structure and reward, being able to contribute towards a community project. It helped him feel less isolated and more in control of his life. He is now a very valued member of the project, and is being invited to go on a ‘takeaway’ visits to go see new acts and help inform decision-making on what is chosen for future events. He takes his ambassadorial role seriously, and is encouraging more of his fellow refugees at the centre to come along and take part in the programme.

Next we met with Jean, a 77 year old active and bubbly lady, former nurse, and keen volunteer. She is part of the group which runs the Fenton Carnival. She told me about the 10 week module, event programming course she attended which was organised by Appetite. She learnt about risk assessments, evaluation, insurances, laws, and all the essential good practise knowledge you need to put on a community event. She said to me; ‘It was really beneficial, and really interesting. You didn’t get bored’ she also said that ‘Appetite had given me an insight into things I knew nothing about’. Apparently at an earlier event she had got to walk a tight rope, she surprised herself with what she was capable of.

Next stop was the UHNM hospital. We met with Emma and Rebecca the main contact and the arts commissioner for the hospital charity. The hospital and Appetite co-commissioned a series of artists’ projects over the course of 2014 through to 2016. They ranged from lunch time gigs, to dance performances, puppetry and sculptural installation. A very mixed and experimental programme. Emma and Rebecca talked openly and honestly about what had happened by introducing contemporary art into a hospital setting. ( see videos about projects here

For example, the ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ piano project by artist Luke Jerram, placed multiple pianos in public spaces for anyone play and this was highly successful. Emma told me how one consultant had used the instrument to de-stress in between her shifts. That visitors enjoyed listening to the melodies, that it inspired many positive wellbeing benefits including interactions between strangers. The bedside puppetry project in the Stroke Department was also a huge hit. The puppeteers were limited to only using hospital utility items to create puppets, thus circumventing the serious infection regulations inside a hospital. The performers consulted with the hospital staff about individual patient physio exercises, and then incorporated those movements into the participatory sections. Thus the performances seamlessly integrated both physical and mental wellbeing into the creative experience.

Infection prevention is such a serious issues in a hospital environment, it almost put the brakes on the ‘Flowerbed’ project by the British Ceramics Biennial. Inspired by Stoke’s historical connection with decorative ceramics, they had planned to run porcelain flower making workshops in various locations across the hospital, including on a ward. It is now standard practise to not allow any standing water in any ward (hence no flowers in vases anymore). Luckily the artists had found a solution which involved using oil and baby wipes instead of water to clean peoples’ hands after they made their flower. This issue had to be carefully negotiated by Rebecca the Arts Coordinator. The flower making workshops were very popular. Participants enjoyed the peaceful and relaxing process, and were equally pleased to be able to take their flower home once it had been fired. The project was so successful the hospital decided to commission a permanent edition of the work.


Here is an image of the sculpture entitled ‘Flowerhead’ by Allison Howell. The work is positioned just outside the wig & hat salon which helps people going through chemo. Apparently the tiny flowers are based on a species called Rose Periwinkle which is used in certain cancer treatments. Rebecca and Emma opened up about the staff politics inside the hospital. Staff felt very strongly about the artworks, where the money had come from and whether certain works were appropriate or not. They learnt during this first set of commissions, that they have to tread very carefully indeed. They did not want to reinforce certain members’ negative preconceptions of contemporary art. For example there was a seemingly harmless proposal for a ‘sound library’; a collection of audio works contained within books. When it arrived they realised that some of the recording were potentially quite challenging. One sound piece contained screaming, and another contained swearing. They had to consider that people who enter a hospital might be there to receive very bad news. As they put it ‘life or death’ stuff on a daily basis. Therefore the decision was made to pull this work, so as to avoid causing any distress to unsuspecting patients.

Whoever said commissioning new art was easy? Not me! I am pleased to report that these experiments have not put off the hospital trust in producing further new artworks. Working together with the Appetite has been of huge benefit to the hospital, and they have future plans to develop more projects, basing their ideas on the learning of what they have already delivered. This is action research at its finest.

Workshop group in SPode factory

We made a brief visit to the Spode factory to see a ceramics workshop with Appetite Community Hub, Burslem Jubilee (a drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees), working towards next year’s British Ceramic Biennial, a major cultural calendar event for Stoke. What an amazing space!

My final stop for the day was in Meir to meet a community development officer called Charlotte. She is part of the Hanford Village Residents’ Association who developed ‘The Grand Cross Fayre’, funded and supported by Appetite over the past two years through their Community Hub programme. She told me about how at the beginning many of the committee had been sceptical about putting on a large event, and getting outside touring acts to come along. However, the success of the previous year’s event had inspired them to be more confident. Even the chairman had said ‘this area needs this’.

My visit to Appetite made me realise that, as with many of the CPP projects, there is so much more to them than just the big festivals and fireworks. Appetite has a very small team indeed, yet they manage to deliver across a large area, working in partnership with multiple organisations. There are dozens of smaller projects they are involved in, and provide support and training to many individuals. Not all these activities make the headlines, or fill up Facebook feeds with glossy photos, but are nonetheless essential to supporting the growth of the cultural ecology. This is why CPP projects are so vital, because they invest in the foundations of the creative economy, scattering the seedlings of change, whilst also realising ambitious and exciting new artworks of international quality.