Stoke-on-Trent is set to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Potteries author Arnold Bennett in 2017. Bennett's literary legacy is vast. He was a writer of books, novels, plays and philosophical musings. He was a journalist, a travel writer, a raconteur and wit. He was a resident of the Savoy Hotel, in London. He gave his name to an Omelette (still cooked and served by many of the leading chefs and top restaurants in Britain today). He lived in France. And Stoke-on-Trent. And London. And he was mourned nation-wide when he died.
He also explained to the world how easy it is to spot someone from Stoke-on-Trent (just watch for the people who turn-over their cups, saucers and plates to see where they were made!).
But most importantly of all, it was Arnold Bennett who best illustrated the enormous debt which Britain owes to The Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent: "You cannot drink tea out of a tea-cup without the aid of the Five Towns, you cannot eat a meal in decency without the aid of the Five Towns".
Universally recognised as ranking alongside Thomas Hardy's Wessex in the description and depiction of a specific region and the provincial life it embodies, Bennett's novels of the 'Five Towns' have attracted an enormous world-wide following for well over a century.
The towns he described in great detail in novels such as The Old Wives' Tale, Anna of the Five Towns, Clayhanger and The Card were filled with "pitheads, chimneys and kilns, tier above tier, dim in their own mists" - very different from the six towns of current day Stoke-on-Trent, but for all that, a fitting tribute to the history and heritage of The Potteries.
Born in Hanley in 1867, Bennett eventually moved to London; but never lost sight of his native Potteries - despite becoming one of the most financially and socially successful writers of this century.
The Potteries became the setting for many of his novels and short stories as Bennett detected a "grim and original beauty" in the industrial landscape of the region where he spent his formative years. And his writings helped put The Potteries on the literary map of Great Britain.