So, you've chosen a uni, everything is finally clicking into place. You've spent hours trawling review sites to find out about Staffs Uni, and you feel pretty much prepared. Lovely jubberly. While reading these reviews you might have picked up on a few comments about Stoke-On-Trent, but nothing of much use to you......As a future student of Staffs Uni, and a Stokie, I'm here to tell you all you need to know about Stoke, with the aim of letting all you guys know what to expect come September when you're not on campus. So, siddown, grab a brew, and read on duck!
The City of Stoke-On-Trent
Stoke-on-Trent is a small city in the west midlands, roughly half way between Manchester and Birmingham. The city is a conurbation, which basically means the city was originally 6 towns that have now been merged together, the towns are as follows ->
(You'll hear the phrase '5 towns' in S-O-T a lot, this is because Fenton isn't regarded as a major town)
While the town of Stoke gives it's name to the city, it isn't the city centre. Hanley is the centre, with all major shops, bars, clubs and entertainment situated there (more on that later!)
S-O-T was once the heart of the pottery industry, with huge names such as Doulton, Wedgewood and Spode originating there. Since foreign manufacturing has become cheaper the industry has slowly declined, leaving S-O-T in serious decline. This decline is clearly visible, with some areas housing nothing but closed down factories. However S-O-T is trying to regenerate, and luckily for us students a major focus is being put on education....S-O-T is trying to become a true 'University city'.
Staffordshire University Quarter
S-O-T is home to the two major campuses of Staffs Uni, Leek Road and College Road, both of which are situated between the towns of Stoke and Hanley. The campuses (including accomodation) are in an area called Shelton, but is generally considered as the University Quarter. The University Quarter also houses a vast array of takeaways and chippys along with row upon row of terraced houses, used almost exclusively by students.
One of the things that make Staffs Uni unique is the fact that the University quarter is clearly seperated from the rest of the City, with the beautiful Hanley park to the South, and the A500 to the north, defining the boundaries with Hanley and Stoke respectively.
Getting away from the University Quarter is a doddle, with bus services every 5 minutes to Hanley (or a 15 minute walk) and a major train station that is within a 10 minute walk no matter where you are in the Quarter.
Hanley is a reasonably sized town, home to the Potteries Shopping Centre (the central hub of shopping in S-O-T and the surrounding areas), containing all the usual high street shops. The shopping centre is also home to the UK's 2nd biggest Primark, and a decent sized TK Maxx. Also within Hanley there are a number of smaller specialist shops, catering to a number of styles.
Food shopping while at Staffs Uni is usually done at Sainsburys, which is a 10 minute walk from the Quarter, but as with all cities, there is every type of supermarket known to man within it's towns, accessible on the bus or via a taxi.
S-O-T has 3 major theatres, The Regents (major touring companies are to be found here), The Reginal Mitchell Memorial Theatre (amateur productions, or smaller touring companies) and The New Vic (In the round, with a mixture of modern and classical styles, a Shakespeare production usually once a month). Victoria hall is also in Hanley, a performance venue with a great selection of musical and comedy acts. The SugarMill is a popular gig venue, with many big acts playing weekly.
There are 2 cinemas in S-O-T, an Odeon and a VUE, both priced well for students (with VUE being slighlty more aesthetically pleasing). Of course S-O-T has ten pin bowling, which is situated in the same area as the Odeon and Waterworld. Waterworld is the UK's No1 AquaPark (apprently) which is basically an indoor venue home to wave pools and slides....however if this is your thing, get yourself to Cariba Creek at Alton Towers, much better!
The legendary Alton Towers is a bus journey away - A theme park, adventure golf and waterpark....no need to go into any details of what the place is about...Also a bus ride away is Trentham Gardens, home to the UK's only Monkey Forest and a great place to chill out, with great food, frequent continental markets and an attraction called Aerial X-treme, which can only be described as an adventure playground for adults suspended 30ft in the air. Within S-O-T there is a number of green spaces and nature reserves, great for picnics or just relaxing.
If none of this excites you, Manchester and Birmingham are a 30min train journey away.
Getting around S-O-T is mostly done on buses, with most areas of the City no more then a 40min bus journey away. The bus system is called the Overground, because, as with the Underground, there are minimal timetables. Buses are advertised as being 'Every ** Minutes' and are usually pretty punctual. The main hub is Hanley, if going anywhere outside of Hanley or the University Quarter, chances are you'll be changing there.
Buses in S-O-T don't use normal fares, instead everything is flat-rate. Returns aren't available for most journeys, you have to purchase 2 single tickets. Travel under a mile is roughly £1, over a mile £1.50, and journeys venturing outside of the city (for example to Alton Towers, Uttoxeter, Stafford and Crewe) are roughly £2. The one you'll be using most at Staffs Uni is the 25, or the UniLink, which travels between Keele University, Stoke, Staffs Uni and Hanley. Staffs Uni to Hanley is over a mile, so is roughly £1.50.
From S-O-T you can get trains to most major train stations, either direct or via Crewe or Birmingham. Travel to Birmingham and Manchester is roughly £10 return, or about £6 with a railcard. Trains to London also operate from Stoke train station, taking just under 2 hours, prices vary, but can reach £40 if not booked in advance. A cheaper option for London however is the National Express, caught from Hanley, the 3hr 30min journey can cost as little as £2 return when booked in advance!
Taxis operate in the city, with Hackney Carriages (Hail-able) available from all the major towns, and minicabs (booked only) are relatively cheap.
Staffs Uni to Hanley is within easy walking distance, taking roughly 15mins, which means nights out are usually pretty cheap.
Simply put, if you aren't going to the the LRV or taking a train to another city, you'll be heading to Hanley. Hanley has a great mix of chain bars and independant venues. Chains include Reflex, Liquid, Jumping Jaks, Spoons, Varsity, Walkabout and Chicago. Monday is the main student night, with great offers in most bars. A number of Bars have now introduced open bars, where they charge approx. £10 entry then all drinks are free...big hit with students, so can get very crowded. THE nightclub is Liquid. Liquid is spread onto 3 floors, on a Monday the top floor (Liquid 2) plays mostly Alternative and Indie, the middle floor (Liquid) plays mainly dance but can vary greatly week to week (a fair amount of cheese around midnight!), and the bottom floor (Jumpin' Jaks) plays R&B with a small amount of cheese added for good measure. The best thing about Liquid is it totally changes every day, with each floor having a different style dependant on the day of the week.
Taxis are everywhere from about 1am onwards, and most bars shut at about 2/3am.
Hanley is also home to a few gay venues, namely The Club, The Three Tuns and Pink, all of which offer a mix of pop, dance, R&B and drag & caberet acts.
S-O-T has a pretty strong accent and a sometimes difficult to understand dialect. When out of the midlands, many mistake the accent as Scouse or Brummie. The accent can be overcome (even at the lightning fast speed Stokies seem to speak at), but a big hurdle is the Dialect. Here are a few that often catch people out -
Duck - Duck is Stokes word. It is said in other places, but not to the extent that it is here. Duck is said after most sentances (usually following 'Ta' meaning thanks) and is used by both men and women when speaking to any gender. This can be quite bizarre for visiting males, but it is very much accepted in S-O-T.
'anley - Stokies often drop letters or complete words from sentances, Hanley is almost always referred to as 'anley, and when visiting the town, you are always going 'up 'anley', no matter where in the world you set out from.
PMT - Buses in S-O-T used to be run by a company called PMT, who have been replaced by First Buses. A lot of Stokies still call it PMT - "I'm going go up 'anley duck, gonna get the PMT"
The D Road - the main route into S-O-T from the M6 is the A500, which links 2 M6 junctions in a D shape. Stokies almost always call the A500 the D road because of this.
Owrate Shag? - Owrate basically means 'how are you?'. Shag is used as an alternative to 'mate', and isn't offensive in S-O-T.
Bost - Broken or Burst - "I'm bosting fort loo"
Boslem - Burslem, one of the 6 towns
Dunna, Cunna, Wunna - used very often as replacements for Don't, Couldn't and Wouldn't, or Don't, Can't, Won't respectively
Towers - Alton Towers is referred to as just 'Towers'
Book, Look & Cook - During your time in S-O-T, you WILL be told you are wrong for pronouncing these words 'Buck, Luck and Cuck',and will be corrected to the Stokie versions of 'Bewk, Lewk and Cewk'
Another issue with Stokies is the older generation, instead of just speaking with a slightly changed vocabulary, they speak Pott, which is basically a different language. Examples of Pott are displayed in the Potteries Shopping Centre. It can be very confusing, but is really interesting to learn about, there are a few tapes and books available from local libraries.
Stokies are very proud of their city, and can get very defensive. With the city's football team, Stoke City FC getting in the premier league, the feeling of pride is at it's highest in the city since the beginning of the decline.
Stoke people are very friendly, unlike many areas of the UK, asking someone if they're alright actually means what it says (some areas treat 'alright' as a friendly hello), and requires an answer and the question to be returned. Stoke people are also very polite, and don't take kindly to people not thanking them for doors being held open, or pardons when moving to the front of a bus. Another Stoke tradition that can be lacking in other areas is always saying thank you to a bus driver, or shop attendant (if the shop is small enough a thank you is usually shouted from the door to the till when leaving also). Bouncers are almost always thanked by stokies when leaving a pub, bar or club, and it is always retured.
Obviously this has only scraped the surface of Stoke-On-Trents culture, I just hope it has helped those worrying about moving to a new city. If any Stokies/Staffs Uni students want to add anything, feel free!
Owrate Duck, tara!