A town centre has been transformed into an outdoor art gallery as part of a two-month creative festival.

The Art Street project includes a dozen sculptures, which have been put up on lampposts across Stoke. Each figure, shaped like a face, represents an individual who has made a positive contribution to their community.

The 12 people who inspired the Essence installation were nominated via social media. It was then down to artists Richard Redwine and Jodie Gibson to create the head-like sculptures of them.

Their pieces were unveiled at the launch of Festival Stoke on Saturday.

Organiser Margaret Hardcastle said: “At the moment, we need things to uplift, encourage and inspire people.



One of the sculptures
One of the sculptures

“I’d describe Stoke as a town with a real heart within the whole city. It has a particular creative buzz to it. There’s lots of artists and creative people based here. It’s full of friendly people and has got a proper town centre that people walk around and mingle in. 

“The purpose of doing this event is to encourage people to come into the town.”

The 3D sculpted faces, made out of recyclable materials, light up when it gets dark. They form an art trail around Stoke town centre.

The people who inspired them are Christine Thorley, Fahmida Rahman, Bernardo Pezo, Connie Nixon, Pamela Ndebele, Shakeela Hussain, Peter Herbert, Jillian Flitcroft-Hurst, Joe Cowen, Theresa Conlon, ​De Anna Botfield and ​Angela Boote.

The contributions they have made include volunteering, community activism, event organising, fundraising, mentoring and giving people in need valuable support. Collectively, they highlight the essence and the spirit of Stoke.



Marg Hardcastle, co-director of the festival
Marg Hardcastle, co-director of the festival

Margaret added: “What we wanted to do was celebrate the people in the local community that are really making a difference in a quiet way and Stoke is full of people like that.

“We wanted to celebrate those ordinary people who are doing good things in a hidden way, it’s important to tell their story.” 

Emily Andrews and Toby White are street performers commissioned by Festival Stoke.

Also known as ‘Sandy and Mandy’, the comedic duo were at the launch event. They were busy providing people with information about the city in quirky ways through singing and dancing. 

Thirty-three-year-old Emily said: “The thing about Stoke is that people are really curious, so it is perfect to have a festival like this here. We need events like these.



Emily Andrews and Toby White as tour guides Mandy and Sandy
Emily Andrews and Toby White as tour guides Mandy and Sandy

“The town is quite culturally diverse and it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. The sculptures are fabulous and something different. It’s not been seen before in Stoke. It’s brilliant.

“The artists have worked really hard to involve people and involve the city in this, which is really amazing. It’s not just about making art for art’s sake, it’s about making it to represent the people of the city.”

Toby, aged 35, added: “Stoke has a lot going on, but you just have to go and find it.

“The sculptures are outstanding. I was talking to the artists about their ideas of how they are representing those people and they have got a lot of their personalities within it, a lot of thought has gone into it. 

“How often do you see giant heads being displayed on lampposts?”.

You can read the stories of the 12 secret stars here. The festival runs until May 16.





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